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These six pieces were originally part of a collection of 12 bagatelles composed for piano between and In , Ligeti transcribed six of the bagatelles for a wind quintet made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. With the exception of the second and fifth bagatelles, these are quick, spirited little pieces.
They reflect Ligeti 's economical approach to composition, as a minimum number of notes are used to maximum effect. The bagatelles are often texturally sparse, with most of the notes either played staccato or strongly accented to create cool but insistent music.
The dynamics change frequently, sometimes several times in each bar, and the instruments are often called on to play muted, adding different colors to each piece. Ligeti 's bagatelles employ some harsh dissonances and complex ideas; however, they are also very moving and accessible little chamber pieces that explore both the expressive and the purely musical potential of a limited amount of material. These pieces are very short: most are under two minutes in duration, and none are over three.
The first bagatelle, Allegro con spirito, is comprised of only four pitches yet is amazingly varied in expression and is motivically inventive. The second bagatelle is a passionate, anguished Lamentoso.
The third is quick, but with longer cantabile melodies juxtaposed with quiet staccato figures. The final bagatelle is like a wild, frenetic race, and the penultimate measures are marked "as though insane"; but the piece ultimately ends with a soft, muted horn solo.
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1953: Ligeti's Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
The work was composed from to ,  shortly after the composer began lecturing at the Budapest Academy of Music. Although the ricercata or ricercar is an established contrapuntal style and the final movement of the work is in that form , Ligeti's title should probably be interpreted literally as "researched music" or "sought music". This work captures the essence of Ligeti's search to construct his own compositional style ex nihilo ,  and as such presages many of the more radical directions Ligeti would take in the future. In response to a request by the Jeney Quintet, six of the movements were arranged for wind quintet as Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet An important global structural feature of Musica ricercata is that Ligeti confines himself to only certain pitch classes in each movement, with each subsequent movement having exactly one more pitch class than the last. The pitch classes found in each movement are as follows:.
6 Bagatelles [arr. from Musica ricercata] for Wind Quintet
Ligeti's Bagatelles for Wind Quintet