Metronomes—100 of them—take center stage at Victoria Symphony’s Ligeti festival

Posted on: March 28, 2014

“The Victoria Symphony’s concert on Saturday, part of its festival honouring György Ligeti (1923-2006), will open with the Hungarian composer’s kookiest and most notorious piece, Poème symphonique (1962) for 100 metronomes,” writes Kevin Bazzana in the Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia). “You heard me—100 metronomes. They are wound, set to different speeds, placed in equal-size groups on a resonant surface, and, on a conductor’s cue, set in motion as simultaneously as possible by two or more ‘interpreters,’ who then leave the stage. When the last metronome stops ticking—after 15 to 20 minutes, Ligeti suggests—the piece is over…. Poème symphonique raises a curious period-instrument problem. Performing it ‘authentically’ requires metronomes that gradually run down, which is to say the old pyramid-shaped, manually wound, pendulum-operated ones…. But they are becoming scarce…. The Victoria Symphony is renting its metronomes from Gregory Oh, a Toronto-based pianist and conductor who has been an ardent champion of Ligeti’s piece…. Oh, who is charging the Victoria Symphony ‘a modest fee’ (plus shipping), does not expect to earn back what he spent on his metronomes. ‘I did this mostly for me,’ ” he says.

Posted March 28, 2014