Sometimes I feel as if everyone who made the world brilliant, whose lives and works simply took humanity to new places is slipping away, and we are only left with the detritus, the shadows and the gutter. Gyorgy Ligeti died on Monday this week.
As a man who grew up in Hungary under German and Soviet tyrannies, when home was exactly where you did not want to be, who moved to Western Europe after the Russians extinguished Hungarian independence, and who had been footloose ever since, Mr. Ligeti had no simple notion of where he belonged, and this feeling informed his work.
One movement in his Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano from 1982, for example, is composed, as he put it, of “an imaginary, synthetic folklore of Latin-American and Balkan elements”; another recalls “the Gypsy music which affected me so strongly as a child.”
What, Mr. Ligeti asked himself, is being expressed here: “Nostalgia for a homeland that no longer exists?” And there he put his finger on something: home is not just a place, but also a time.