This programme of Études and Capriccios by György Ligeti marks the centenary of the Hungarian composer’s birth. The performance by Han Chen underscores the status of the Études as one of the most significant sets of piano studies of the 20th century. As Ligeti himself described it, the impetus for ‘... composing highly virtuosic piano études ... was, above all, my own inadequate piano technique. [The music] is neither “avant-garde” nor “traditional”, neither tonal nor atonal. These are ... études in the pianistic and compositional sense. They proceed from a very simple core idea and lead from simplicity to great complexity: they behave like growing organisms.’
György Ligeti’s Études redefined the piano’s tonal possibilities and are considered one of his major creative achievements, as well as being one of the most significant sets of piano studies of the 20th century. They inevitably draw on influences from the past such as Chopin and Debussy, but avoid any sense of eclecticism. Ligeti’s often spectacularly virtuoso use of complex rhythms and geometric patterns proceeds from simple core ideas to create music that is ‘neither “avant-garde” nor “traditional”, neither tonal nor atonal’, and always backed by that glint of humour in the composer’s eye.
Since winning the Gold Medal at the 2013 China International Piano Competition, Han Chen has emerged among the new generation of concert pianists as a uniquely fearless performer in a wide variety of musical settings. Chen’s virtuosity is enriched by a probing commitment to new and lesser-known works, as well as the great cornerstones of the piano repertory. This vision is clearly evident in his four solo Naxos albums featuring works by Franz Liszt (8.573415), Anton Rubinstein (8.573989), Thomas Adès (8.574109) and György Ligeti (8.574397).