Modernist music is notoriously perceived as inaccessible. This view is nurtured by rationalistic criticism which unduly insinuates that music can be wholly understood and explained in terms of intellect. This perspective is one that has greatly affected how the music of modernism – and after, is listened to and received. Issues regarding this perception, and the increasingly aesthetically influenced analytical approaches that have since transpired, are of central interest in this dissertation. I study the Violin Concerto by György Ligeti in the context of this discussion – arguably one of the most popular and accessible works of recent years. Ligeti’s colourful approach to composition and openly metaphorical comments pave the way for an analytical investigation which is more conducive to the music as it is heard. Part I explores the contemporary historical and cultural context of post-war modernism and after. The music of the past 50-60 years stands in focus and the changing receptions of this music are investigated. A broader perspective on a selection of Ligeti’s works is the theme of Part II. These works are not necessarily presented chronologically, but rather according to considerations of the listening experience. These two sections provide a context for an analytical study of the Violin Concerto. Various approaches are explored in attempts to assimilate a better understanding of the actuality of the work as a sounding whole: listening experiences, compositional analysis of the completed work, the comments of the composer and a look at Ligeti’s sketches are all points of departure for this investigation.
Illustrations on page 37 and on page 69 are removed from the thesis due to copyright restrictions.