Dissertation Index

Author: Taylor, Stephen Andrew

Title: The Lamento Motif: Metamorphosis in Ligeti's Late Style

Institution: Cornell University

Begun: May 1992

Completed: May 1994


Gyorgy Ligeti has spoken of a "stylistic caesura" in his music that occurred around 1980. Since then, melody has become more important in his music, as well as elaborate polyrhythm and a strange, new harmony which, as Ligeti has said so often about his music, is "neither tonal nor atonal." He lists among his new influences the music of sub-Saharan Africa, the Carribean, and Malaysia, as well the player-piano music of Conlon Nancarrow and the beautiful, fractal images of deterministic chaos discovered by Benoit Mandelbrot. Behind all these new influences, though, the music of his native Hungary and of his countryman Bela Bartok stands out more clearly than in any music Ligeti has composed since he left his homeland in 1956.

This essay examines Ligeti's late style (for he has said this will be his last) by concentrating on four movements which all use the same theme, a chromatically falling lament: the last movement of the Horn Trio (1982); the sixth Piano Etude, Automne a Varsovie (1985); and the second and third movements of the Piano Concerto (1985-88). These pieces not only let us see how Ligeti uses the same idea in different contexts; they also provide an overview of Ligeti's late style.

Keywords: Ligeti, Gyorgy, Horn Trio, Etudes pour piano, Piano Concerto, Lamento


1. Introduction: The Lamento Motif and Ligeti's Late Style
2. Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano: Fourth Movement, "Lamento"
3. Piano Etude No. 6, Automne a Varsovie
4. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Second and Third Movements
5. Ligeti's Late and Early Styles: Full Circle
Appendix A List of Works, 1978-April 1994
Appendix B Selected Discography
Appendix C Analytical graph of melodies in the Lamento of the Horn Trio
Appendix D Analytical reduction of Etude No. 6, Automne a Varsovie


Stephen Taylor
Department of Music
Pittsburg State University
Pittsburg, KS 66762
voice: (316) 232-7026
fax: (316) 232-7515

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