Huebner Plays Ligeti

cover FCR269

LIGETI: Études pour piano, Books I & II. Trio for Violin, Horn & Piano* / Eric Huebner, pno; *Yuki Numata Resnick, vln; Adam Unsworth, Fr-hn / New Focus Recordings FCR269

Here is a new recording of György Ligeti’s complete piano Études as well as a performance of his Horn Trio by American pianist Eric Huebner. Since I already have these works in my collection played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard on Sony Classical, I of course made a comparison between the two.

Both performances do justice to the music, but the two pianists’ approaches are slightly different. Aimard imparts a bit more legato to his recordings whereas Huebner plays in a crisp, staccato style with no legato at all and, in fact, with no attempt to sustain any tones.

As a modern composer, Ligeti can of course withstand this sort of approach. He was a Hungarian, after all, and the Hungarian style of classical performance tends towards the objective rather than the subjective, but in a piece such as the fifth Étude, titled “Arc-en-ciel,” I felt that a little pedal wouldn’t have done any harm. It’s true that here, as in other such pieces, Huebner does play a bit more delicately than elsewhere, but the unrelentingly bright, crisp sound of his instrument provided only a little by way of contrast, although Huebner does indeed observe all of Ligeti’s dynamics markings which are extremely important to this music.

The Horn Trio is played well, particularly by violinist Resnick and Huebner. Our French horn player, Adam Unsworth, has a muffled tone, not as clear as that of the great Marie-Luise Neunecker on the Sony recording, but otherwise he handles his assignment well. I always got a laugh out of the fact that Ligeti subtitled this “Hommage à Brahms” since, aside from the specific combination of instruments, there is little correlation to the Brahms Horn Trio. Everything about this piece is entirely different, not least the eerie harmonies. The second movement is particularly sprightly in its weird atonal way.

A good recording, then. If you don’t already have these works in your collection, it’s a good place to start, but I would also recommend that you explore the Sony Classical Ligeti: Masterpieces set.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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