Banned Ligeti film to be shown after 55 years

Banned Ligeti film to be shown after 55 years


norman lebrecht

February 23, 2018

Message received:
At the time it was scandalous: the 1963 world premiere of György Ligeti’s Poème symphonique (for 100 metronomes) in Hilversum Town Hall. The audience – which included the Mayor and the Aldermen, the Spanish ambassador and Willem Marinus Dudok, the architect who designed the Town Hall– had little liking for this work. They found it far too conceptual. The NOS therefore decided not to broadcast the recorded footage. During the Ligeti Festival – in Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, from 5 to 8 April – that footage can now be seen for the first time in more than fifty years. Also on the programme is the screening of a unique music lecture Ligeti gave for German television in Berlin in 1963.

The composer at the premiere

Until recently the footage of the world première of Poème symphonique was believed to have been lost forever. With the aid of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Muziekgebouw managed to find that missing footage and is now able to screen it in a more modern context. The other film on the programme is a unique music lecture Ligeti gave for German television in Berlin in 1963, as part of a series of live lectures by major composers such as John Cage and Luigi Nono. In this lecture Ligeti talks in detail for more than an hour about his vision of composing and his way of working, something he seldom did, as evidenced by his statement: ‘I think music is a bit like love. You do it, but you don’t talk about it.’


  • John Borstlap says:

    O how I love this! I have an illegal recording of this piece on cassette, posted by a Dutch friend of my uncle, who was present at the premiere, it’s one of those family jewels, and when depressed I listen to it again and again and it’s so healing! It begins in chaos, just how you feel yourself. And when the clicks get together, your own emotional turmoil is together as well! What an idea. And of course these bourgeois Dutch did not understand the groundbreaking step it was in the upwards spiral of music… it’s so of our time, what is there be left to wish for?


    • pooroperaman says:

      I think he meant it as a metaphor for the concentration camps, as the metronomes shut down and ‘disappear’ one by one, so you should probably tone down the irony a little.

      • David R Osborne says:

        So, just so I understand you, any piece of conceptual art intended as a metaphor for WWII concentration camps is exempt from accusations of being self indulgent or pretentious?

        Great thanks, I’m on it!

      • Robert Holmén says:

        Can you cite that concentration camp intention?

        His own commentary doesn’t mention it or imply it.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Indeed, and when I use my metronome I always associate its finger wagging with admonishings of never build concentration camps again.

  • steven holloway says:

    Banned? Either it was lost for 55 years or it was banned from being heard/shown for 55 years. You can’t have both.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Neither banned nor lost, but you can’t repeat the same joke on and on. There is a commercial recording of the “thing” (Ligeti Edition, Vol. 5, Sony Music).

  • Andrew E Petersen says:

    Right up there with the music of Stephan