CONTINUUM // Justin Taylor

CONTINUUM // Justin Taylor

My aim with this CD was to show that they have far more in common than you might imagine. Both of are strikingly original, and they’re both constantly renewing themselves with each new piece: with every single one of Scarlatti’s sonatas, each time it’s an entirely new universe and it’s the same for Ligeti. Also, they’re both composers who are searching for new sonorities on the harpsichord, so not exactly the kind of harpsichord sound the listener is used to. Naturally they’re not searching for the same things, because Scarlatti is of the 18th century and Ligeti of the 20th, so the sonorities are going in two rather different directions, but undeniably there’s a really remarkable degree of virtuosity shared by both composers. For all these reasons, I thought it would be intriguing to bring Scarlatti and Ligeti together. The choice wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t a brief task: working your way through more than 500 sonatas isn’t something you can do in half a day! Among all his sonatas, I was trying to find really varied works that represent quite different worlds, in their palette of sounds, their writing, their virtuosity: the sonatas that have a real sense of individual taste, a genuinely Scarlattian perfume – because there are some sonatas where immediately you know it’s Scarlatti, and these are the ones I’ve favoured. And as if by chance these too are the ones that gave the most responsive echo to the pieces by Ligeti. There’s the Hungarian Passacaglia that he wrote in 1978, in which he adopts for his own purposes the principle of a ground bass, which is of course an idea much used in the baroque period, and he makes it apparent in the title, ‘Passacaglia’. But he brings in his own researches, particularly about the nature of time, because over that ostinato bass line that runs throughout the piece Ligeti superimposes rhythms that become shorter and shorter, faster and faster, and suddenly the impression you have is that the piece is speeding up until it seems to become completely static. As you can appreciate, it’s a really interesting piece. Then there’s the Hungarian Rock, which also has a rhythm running right through it from start to finish, this time a really frenetic rhythm. At the end of the CD, there’s the piece Continuum, At the end of the CD, there’s the piece Continuum, The point of departure for Continuum was a parodox that Ligeti wanted to embody in music: the idea of creating a continuity with discontinuous sounds. It is the speed of repetition of these discontinuous sounds that creates an illusion of continuity just as in the cinema, where a rapid succession of images creates the illusion of a continuous flow. The title refers of course to that seminal piece by Ligeti, but also for me that word symbolizes the kind of connection that I find so interesting between Scarlatti and Ligeti, that sense of continuity between these two worlds. It’s obviously not easy to find a harpsichord suitable for both Scarlatti and Ligeti. Ligeti was most familiar with the so-called modern harpsichords, instruments made by Pleyel where a lot of features are taken over from piano manufacture: metal frames, pedals to effect a rapid change of registers that possibility of shifting registers at speed interested a great many composers around that time, but Ligeti not so much. And that is exactly what convinces me that what really interested him was the sound itself of the harpsichord, which is why I’ve chosen a copy of an historic instrument made by Anthony Sidey in the 1980s. It’s a harpsichord I’m particularly fond of, and one that I’ve already recorded on, by the way, in my first CD album devoted to Forqueray.

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