Music that slowly changes shape like a cloud: György Ligeti’s Requiem contains the fascinating webs of sound for which the composer was celebrated from the early 1960s onwards. Right at the beginning of the enormously scored work, darkly shaded with contrabass clarinet, contrabassoon, contrabass trombone and contrabass tuba, the music is “brought to an apparent standstill” as individual, moving “choral voices intertwine” and “suspend their movements” (Ligeti).
Sir Simon Rattle has created a sophisticated programme around Ligeti’s Requiem, which, according to the composer, was not written for liturgical reasons but was inspired by images of the Last Judgement. Alongside Ligeti’s former succès de scandale Apparitions, it includes Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu. The work was based on Alfred Jarry’s Theatre of the Grotesque play about the murderous usurper of the same name and is a “farce that comes across as staid and seemingly cheerful, fat and gluttonous like Ubu himself” (Zimmermann).
The evening is rounded off with Bohuslav Martinů’s poignant Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and orchestra, which quotes the main Kyrie theme from Antonín Dvořák’s Requiem in the opening movement. The introspective, neo-Romantic piece from 1952 became one of the most frequently performed viola concertos of the 20th century. The soloist is the first principal viola of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Amihai Grosz.