Cello Sonata (1948/1953) by György Ligeti
for cello

I. Dialogo. Adagio, rubato, cantabile
II. Capriccio. Presto con slancio

I did not choose the tumults of my life. Rather, they were imposed on me by two murderous dictatorships: first by Hitler and the Nazis, and then by Stalin and the Soviet system. Common to both of these totalitarian dictatorships was the banning of 'modern' art, which both systems considered to be 'hostile to the people'.

In 1948 all 'modern' music was banned in Hungary — that is, not only Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Stravinsky, but even Britten and Milhaud. Bartok was 'filtered' in that his dissonant works were banned, while his folk-song arrangements were permitted. After all, Bartok (who had already died in 1945) was considered the great national composer of the People's Republic of Hungary. It was particularly difficult for young artists; they were expected to uphold the norms of 'socialist realism' as dictated by Stalin and Zhadanov, which meant accepting the aesthetics of the 'petit bourgeois'.

The authorities allowed the Cello Sonata (first movement 1948), second movement 1953) to be recorded for public radio (it was broadcast once). The piece would have to wait until 1983 for its concert debut and another seven years before being published.

— G. L.    

[from program for March 12, 2007 concert]