Pianist takes on Ligeti’s ‘gnarly’ Piano Concerto

Pianist Conor Hanick will perform at Las Puertas Event Center.
Pianist Conor Hanick will perform at Las Puertas Event Center.

Composer György Ligeti considered his polyrhythmic Piano Concerto his most complex and technically arduous score.

Pianist Conor Hanick calls it a masterpiece.

The Chatter regular will perform the piece at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 15, at Las Puertas Event Center. His performance here advances a date with the same piece for the New York Philharmonic Biennial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in June.

The composer scored his formidable concerto with a reduced orchestra augmented by unusual instruments such as a harmonica, slide whistles and an ocarina, a kind of vessel flute.

“About a handful of pianists play this piece because it is so treacherous,” Hanick said in a telephone interview from New York.

In the vanguard of the avant-garde, Ligeti was writing in post-World War II Europe. Born in Romania, he lived in Hungary before immigrating to Austria in 1956 after the Soviet Union’s violent oppression of the Hungarian revolution.

“He never adhered to one school or aesthetic,” Hanick said.

Ligeti is probably best-known to the public as the composer of music in Stanley Kubrick’s films, including “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Shining” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” Martin Scorsese incorporated his music into the 2010 psychological thriller “Shutter Island.” His “Requiem” was used in the 2014 version of “Godzilla.”

In concert, Hanick’s performances range from the music of the early Baroque to newly written pieces.

“I like the discovery element of contemporary music,” he said. “There’s something about a score that’s never been decoded before. I don’t look at a Beethoven sonata in the same way after playing all this gnarly music.”

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