György Kurtág

(b. 1926)

mode 230

Signs, Games and Messages


mode 230 György KURTÁG: Signs, Games and Messages – Maurizio Barbetti, viola, Gianpiero Ruggeri, baritone

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Signs, Games and Messages
For viola solo, except for the 17th movement of the 1st work, for baritone and viola. Includes program notes in English, French, German and Italian (18 p.) linked to from resource. Text to the 17th movement of the 1st work by Samuel Beckett. Maurizio Barbetti, viola ; Gianpiero Ruggeri, baritone. Recorded in 2010.

Signs, Games and Messages

Maurizio Barbetti, viola
Gianpiero Ruggeri, baritone (track 17)

Signs, Games and Messages (1961-2005)

    1. Signs I (1961 rev. 2005) (1:06 )
    2. Signs II  (1961 rev. 2005) (0:32)
    3. Hommage a John Cage (1987 rev. 1991) (1:41 *)
    4. Perpetuum mobile a  (1987 rev. 1991) (0:56 *)
    5. Perpetuum mobile b (1987 rev. 1991) (1:10 *)
    6. Perpetuum mobile c (1987 rev. 1991) (1:03 *)
    7. Klagendes Lied (1987 rev. 1991)  (1:56 *)
    8. Zank-Kromatisch (1987 rev. 1994)  (1:03)
    9. Flapping-slapping (1987 rev. 1991) (0:38)
    10. Im Volkston (1987-1998) (1:04 *)
    11. J.H.- Song (1987-1998)  (1:20)
    12. The Carenza Jig (1989-1997)  (0:59 *)
    13. …To the exhibition of Sári Gerlóczy (1991) (0:34 *)
    14. In memoriam Aczél György (1991-1994) (1:18 *)
    15. Thomas Blum in memoriam (1992) (2:14)
    16. Doloroso (1992) (1:42)
    17. Samuel Beckett: le nain – Hommage a Roland Moser  (1994)  (1:26 *)with Gianpiero Ruggeri, baritone
    18. Letter to Vera Ligeti (1993-1998)  (2:29 *)
    19. For Imre Földes at 60 (1994)  (1:19 *)
    20. Silent lines to László Dobszay (1995) (2:31 *)
    21. In Nomine – all’ongherese (2001 rev. 2004) (4:39 )
    22. …in memoriam Anneliese Nissen-Zsigmondy (1994 rev.1995) (2:01)
    23. …eine Blume für Tabea… (2000) (1:11)
    24. György Kroó in memoriam (1997) (4:56 *)

4 works for Viola Solo:

  1. Szorongòs es vigasztalòs H. J.-nek (1994) (2:40 *)
  2. Illés Arpadné emlékére (1996) (4:00 *)
  3. Mesto, lacrimoso  (1992) (1:59 *)
  4. Misterioso – altero (1993 rev. 1998)  (1:11 *)

* indicates first recording

This is the first complete recording of the 24 Signs, Games and Messages by Hungarian composer György Kurtág. Signs, Games and Messages is a collection of very personal miniatures which Kurtág began writing almost 50 years ago, and which he continues to add to through the present day. Many have been written, dedicated or inspired by a particular person; they pass, sometimes impertinent, sad, serene, cheerful, joyful, thoughtful, or melancholic.

This CD is completed by the first recordings of four other pieces for viola solo, composed in the Nineties between Budapest and Berlin.

Violist Maurizio Barbetti is a perfect interpreter of these works. Winner of Darmstadt Preis and International Award Interpretation Iannis Xenakis in Paris, he performed as a soloist in major halls in the world. Important composers have written for him, among them Paul Mèfano, Ennio Morricone, Luis de Pablo e Horatiu Radulescu. Barbetti has recorded for the Col Legno and Stradivarius labels.

Barbetti is joined by baritone Gianpiero Ruggeri, who sings on “Samuel Backett: le nain”.

Liner notes by composer Nicola Sani.

Language : English, German, Italian. The 17th movement of the 1st work sung in French.


Kurtág for solo viola

I have been fascinated by the music of György Kurtág, ever since I first encountered it in a recital given by the pianist Marino Formenti.  This was in the first of the three San Francisco Piano Trips, a set of performances given over the course of a week back in April of 2007.  The first of these was entitled Kurtág’s Ghosts, which, at the time, I described as “a fascinating exercise in free association that juxtaposed a broad collection of miniatures by György Kurtág with an equally broad collection of selections from the history of music (ranging from Guillaume de Machaut to Karlheinz Stockhausen) that could be interpreted as influences on Kurtág’s own work.”  Since then I have become accustomed to Kurtág’s miniaturist logic, his encyclopedic stock of knowledge, and the general sense of play that he brings to each of his works, sometimes explicit in his choice of a title like “12 Mikroludien Für Streichquartett.”

All three of these characteristic elements of Kurtág’s music are well represented in a recent Mode release by violist Maurizio Barbetti.  With one exception all of the music on this CD is for solo performance.  (The exception includes an obbligato vocal part for baritone.)  None of the 28 tracks have a duration greater than five minutes, and very few of them come close to that upper bound.

The first 24 tracks constitute the collection Signs, Games and Messages, and this is the first recording of the full set in its entirety.  Hence, this is also the title of the recording.  The booklet notes by Nicola Sani (written in Italian and translated into English by Cinzia Vitaletti with assistance from Brian Brandt and Sabine Feisst) characterize Signs, Games and Messages as a collection of exercises.  This is probably the case, but it misses the point.  Kurtág’s vigorously ludic nature is clearly at play throughout the entire collection;  and almost all of the titles of the individual compositions are as cryptic as the “enigmatic” titles of Edward Elgar’s set of orchestral variations.  However, while just about every recording and performance of Elgar’s variations is accompanied by some explanation of those titles, Sani makes no effort to let us in on any of Kurtág’s games.  This is a pity, because it has never struck me that Kurtág wanted to hide his jokes from us.  He just wanted us to work a bit to get at their humor.

The remaining four tracks are independent pieces composed within the time frame of Kurtág’s work on Signs, Games and Messages (which took place between 1961 and 2005 and included revisions of eleven of the pieces).  Sani calls these “aphorisms” for no apparent reason other than their brevity (and, again, offers no explanation).  Two of them, like many of the movements of Signs, Games and Messages, are dedicated to Kurtág’s acquaintances.  The other two are specified only by their tempo markings.

While the logic of the music on this recording may be a puzzle remaining to be solved, one can still appreciate each composition as an exercise.  In that frame of reference, Barbetti’s executions are always impressive and often downright awesome.  Each piece clearly demands its own characteristic sonority, and Barbetti’s account of that sonority is always a solid one.  However cryptic the messages behind the music may be, this recording is a stunning journey through the capabilities of a skilled violist;  and that journey should not be missed.

– Stephen Smoliar, Classical Music Examiner, August 15, 2011



Maurizio BARBETTI profile
Gianpiero RUGGERI profile
Gerard PAPE: profile