Composers Datebook®

Ligeti in Salzburg

György Ligeti (1923 - 2006): Mysteries of the Macabre, fr Le Grand Macabre (Sibylle Ehlert, soprano; Philharmonia Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond.) Sony 62311


Composer's Datebook - July 28, 2021

2:00


July 28, 2021

Synopsis

In the decades since its founding in 1920, the annual Salzburg Music Festival in Austria has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best – and priciest – summertime music venues in the world. The core repertory of the Festival has always been the music of Salzburg’s most famous native son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and other classical and romantic masters from the Austro-Germanic tradition.

Fearing that the Salzburg Festival was becoming a bit too conservative and predictable, in the 1990s the Festival’s directors began shake things up by including some challenging contemporary classics into the mix.  On today’s date in 1997, for example, a car-horn overture signaled the Salzburg Festival premiere of a revised version of György Ligeti’s opera “La Grand Macabre.”

In Ligeti’s opera, the world is fast approaching apocalypse, and the ultimate catastrophe is overseen by a rather ineffectual, and occasionally tipsy Grim Reaper. The libretto is silly and serious at the same time, and was devised by the composer and Michael Meschke, a master puppeteer. For the 1997 Salzburg production, the American director Peter Sellars set the work in a devastated Chernobyl-like landscape contaminated by a nuclear disaster.

Music Played in Today's Program

György Ligeti (1923 - 2006): Mysteries of the Macabre, fr Le Grand Macabre (Sibylle Ehlert, soprano; Philharmonia Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond.) Sony 62311

On This Day

Births

  • 1893 - Danish composer Rued Langgaard, in Copenhagen

Deaths

  • 1750 - German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, age 65, in Leipzig; He died "a little after" 8:15 p.m. and was buried at St. John's cemetery on either July 30 or 31; In 1894 his body was exhumed, examined, and reburied in the Leipzig's St. Thomas Church, where he had served as Kantor

  • 1838 - Finnish composer Bernard Henrik Crusell, age 62, in Stockholm

  • 1969 - American songwriter and musical composer Frank Loesser, age 59, in New York City

Premieres

  • 1717 - Handel: "Water Music" on the river Thames (Julian date: July 17)

  • 1823 - Spohr: opera "Jessonda," in Kassel

  • 1840 - Berlioz: "Symphonie funebre et triomphale," in Paris, with the composer conducting (with a sword) over 200 marching musicians

Others

  • 1741 - In Vienna, burial of Italian composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi

  • 1850 - To mark the centenary of the composer's death, The Bach Gesellschaft is founded in Leipzig; Their goal is to publish a complete edition of Bach's works

  • 1954 - Premiere of Columbia Pictures film "On the Waterfront," with a score by Leonard Bernstein

  • 1997 - Ligeti: opera "La Grand Macabre" (revised version), in Salzburg at the Grosses Festpielhaus