Ligeti: Atmosphères

Duration : 9 minutes

Alan Gilbert conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France performing György Ligeti's "Atmosphères". Excerpt from the concert recorded live on 16 March 2019 at the Radio France Auditorium.

In 1961, György Ligeti composed Atmosphères, one year after having published Apparitions, a work which brought the composer international fame. This latest work for large orchestra, around nine minutes in length, is a consecration for the Hungarian composer, eventually becoming one of the major musical figures of the second half of the 20th century. Influenced by the rise of electronic music, he drew not upon its technical aspects but rather upon the layering of musical lines. 

One could describe Atmosphères as a sonorous mass that evolves gradually. Like a large cloud that appears static and uniform, whereas in reality it is made up of multiple particles that evolve and disappear. The same phenomenon may be found in the work's score: a compact mass of instruments, with multiple layers continuously appearing and discretely disappearing. Whereas, traditionally, occidental music relies upon harmonic and rhythmic variations, Atmosphères focuses upon variations in timbre, casting aside all notions of time.

Atmosphères was used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but in a rather unique position: before the film began, as the audience found their places. A novel way of bringing viewers into the film's "atmosphere", which evolves very slowly, later using other works by Ligeti, including his Requiem in particular.

Concert, from "The Shining" to "2001: A Space Odyssey"
Full concert
From "The Shining" to "2001: A Space Odyssey"
Maison de la Radio, Paris
György Ligeti
All artists
  • Alan GilbertConductor
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio FranceOrchestra