György Ligeti was born in Transylvania in 1923. He studied at the Cluj Conservatory and later at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, where he also taught harmony and counterpoint between 1950 and 1956. He fled Hungary following the revolution of 1956, first for Vienna and then for Cologne, where he was welcomed by Stockhausen. There he worked in the Westdeuscher Rundfunk electronic music studio (1957-1959) and met Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio and Mauricio Kagel. In 1959 he settled in Vienna and obtained Austrian citizenship in 1967.
In the 1960s, Ligeti participated annually in the Darmstadt summer courses, and was a visiting professor in Stockholm (1961-1971). A recipient of the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst grant, he was composer in residence at Stanford University in 1972, and then taught composition at Hamburg’s Hochschule für Musik until 1989. Ligeti was honoured with numerous awards, including the Berlin Kunstpreis, the Bach Prize of the city of Hamburg, and the composition prize of the Fondation Pierre de Monaco.
Ligeti developed a complex polyrhythmic technique, influenced at once by the polyphony of the fourteenth century and various ethnic musics, upon which the works of his last twenty years are based. When he died on 12 June 2006, the music world lost one of the most important creative figures of the twentieth century. (Translation: A. Deruchie)