György Ligeti: Etudes for Piano (complete)

"Taka Kigawa approached these elegant, playful pieces with his customary clarity and calm. Mr. Kigawa is always a poised guide through the most daunting music, as in his preternaturally unruffled evening-length survey of Pierre Boulez’s complete solo piano works. His touch is cool, yet rounded and smooth, and, even at its steeliest, his tone is never rough or harsh. The Ligeti pieces are often built around polyrhythms — the interweaving of conflicting rhythms. For example, in 'En Suspens,' the 11th étude, the right hand has six beats per measure, while the left has four. (This is, it goes without saying, difficult to suss out, as either player or listener.) Mr. Kigawa kept this intricacy from snowballing into chaos: In 'Entrelacs,' the rhythmic juxtapositions end up a complex thicket, yet his textures were lucid. He handled the fragments of 'Fem' with geometric brightness, a Mondrian painting in sound, but his turn to its more reflective, nocturnal conclusion was entirely persuasive. The pieces had internal logic, a sense of individual dramatic arcs both subtle, such as the slow build from childlike to majestic in 'Fanfares,' and extroverted, like the runs that collapse and remount before a pounding ending in 'L’Escalier du Diable' ('The Devil’s Staircase'). Mr. Kigawa’s colors were vivid, never lost in the whirlwind of rhythms. Even his whites were distinct: the powdery starkness into which his high register dissolved in 'Vertige,' and the milkier hue in the deliberate, steady lullaby of 'White on White.'" - Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

"The pianist Taka Kigawa gave an electrifying traversal of all 18 Ligeti Études, a kaleidoscopic set of works that demands the unrelenting energy and precision that are Mr. Kigawa’s specialties." - Allan Kozinn, The Wall Street Journal

"The audience was exceptionally attentive, remaining totally silent and for the most part studiously refusing to applaud until the end of each book of etudes—with a few exceptions. Once or twice, this or that audience member could not help but offer a seemingly involuntary clap, especially after the brilliantly complex prestissimo of the whirlwind of notes in Etude No. 10, Der Zauberlehrling (The Sorcerer's Apprentice). A few minutes later, Kagawa's traversal of Etude 13, L'escalier du diable (The Devil's Staircase), proved so mesmerizing and exhilarating that the whole crowd burst into applause. He earned every bit of it, and even more so, the long, final ovation, which he received with bow after cool, gracious bow." - Daniel Stephen Johnson, Musical America

"As a pianist, Kigawa is no stranger to tackling large-scale endeavors. In his previous Bay Area appearance (part of the inaugural New Music Gathering in January 2015) he performed the entirety of Pierre Boulez’s music for solo piano—from memory. Confronted with the Ligeti Etudes, his playing was focused and transparent, never overwrought or unnecessarily dramatic, as appropriate for the nature of this music. Yet at times Kigawa would suddenly catch fire, crashing chords overwhelming the small listening space of the Center and leaving the audience quaking in their wake. Kigawa blazed through the 18 pieces in less than 90 minutes, taking only a short pause between each book, possibly to give the audience a breather more so than himself. The leanness of the presentation, the quality of the music, and the laser-like focus of the program combined for an awe-inspiring performance, one for which Kigawa, Permutations, and the Center deserve unfettered praise—all the more for making an average Tuesday into a memorable night for contemporary music. - Giacomo Fiore, San Francisco Classical Voice

"Mr. Kigawa reveled in the bustling jazz rhythms of 'Désordre,' and he brought a magnificent clarity to the rising chromatic figures in 'L’Escalier du Diable.'" - Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"Ligeti’s Étude No. 2, “Open Strings.” Inspired by Scarlatti, Chopin, Schumann and Debussy, Ligeti said his “own inadequate piano technique” was another impetus to compose a set of virtuosic études. The second in the set, played here with aplomb by Mr. Kigawa, explores the interval of a fifth, beginning lyrically and becoming agitated and dissonant." - Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times

"Taka Kigawa, the pianist, gave incisive, clear, textured readings of Ligeti’s 'Arc en Ciel' - Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"The second half of the program was the first book of piano études by Gyorgy Ligeti, published in 1985. These pieces are intricate miniatures working out one or two musical ideas, from the tangle of 'Désordre' to the stuttering twitches of 'Touches Bloquées' to the large-scale 'Automne à Varsovie.' On this terrain, Mr. Kigawa's authority was unquestionable." - Anne Midgette, The New York Times

"Five of Gyorgy Ligeti’s piano etudes (Fanfare, Fém, Automne à Varsovie, Cordes à vide, L’escalier du diable) rounded out the program and were handled with technical brilliance by Kigawa and his velvety smooth pianism." - Grace Jean, The Washington Post

"Taka Kigawa tackled Ligeti’s Big Bang with suitable cries and whispers. But listening him play the complete three books of études at Poison Rouge last night, one quickly dismissed his digital genius for the chance to hear Ligeti’s equivalent of merging both Testaments, the Koran, Talmud, Vedas and Finnegans Wake into a one-hour salmagundi.
And so onto Taka Kigawa and the Yamaha piano of Poisson Rouge. Playing the 18 études, mostly by memory. But each with its own personality. Not, however, obeying Ligeti’s dictum to play each to the extremist extreme. Instead, each etude both complemented and contrasted the preceding and proceeding one. In fact, the (justly named) Désordre was almost hidden by Mr. Kigawa’s jazzy tempo–-though the disordered feeling came with the pianist playing white notes on the right hand, black on the left. And how did he follow? With memories of things past. One etude like Debussy on crack, and a third where Mr. Kigawa played the keys like a pair of burlesque comics giving ripostes to each other. And following that, Fanfares. I had heard it before, but Mr. Kigawa gave it the clarity to show that the work had a scale repetition which was repeated over and over and over again. All hidden by massive chords, but peeping out like a gnomic specter under Mr. Kigawa’s deft fingering.
The rest of the evening produced digital miracle on miracle. The “big bang” etude preceded by a lulling rainbow of notes. A gamelan style opening Book 2, and an astounding Devil’s Staircase and equally enthralling Infinite Column.
Mr. Kigawa took a break before Book 3, equally complex but somehow calming. The ending measures are my imagination. Ligeti had proposed six or seven more études, but illness precluded this. Still, the final measures of Canon were like those of Beethoven’s final bagatelle or “the poet speaks”, ending Schumann’s Kinderszenen.. Ligeti’s final calming measures were like a benediction, an orison, an Olympian amen both for his creation, and Taka Kigawa’s magnificent re-creations."Harry Rolnick,

"The oldest music on the program, a selection of Ligeti’s Etudes, has become a classic. Pianist Taka Kigawa played down the virtuosic challenges of these five pieces, going heavy on the soft-pedal and searching out instead their musicality of phrasing. The rolling upward scales in “Fanfares,” shifted back and forth between hands, remained always pliant and subservient to the fanfare melody. In “Fém” Kigawa maintained keen interest even in the crunchy ostinato patterns, with glowing Messiaen-like multi-colored chords in the middle section. Louder gestures burst out in the jumbling falling motif of “Automne à Varsovie,” crashing to its conclusion at the bottom of the keyboard, as well as in the wild ride of “L’escalier du diable.” In between came the wistful, hovering sounds of mostly open chords in Cordes à vide.”Charles T. Downey, Washington Classical Review

"Even more demanding are the etudes of György Ligeti with their strech of wide-ranging moods and contours. Kigawa brings out these elements more forcefully than others whom we have heard tackle these challenging pieces." - Barry L. Cohen, New Music Connoisseur

"Kigawa exacts of the piano its every possibility. His playing matches sensuality with percussive dynamism, shimmer with hammer, and glow with pizzicato precision. As Ligeti’s writing, in these etudes composed between 1985 and 2001, encompasses moods and explorations that range from pastoral meditation to dense immersion in speed itself, Kigawa shapes the sound of the piano to meet the composer’s intentions: the music is rhythmically demanding, even as the texture constantly moves from smooth gentleness to abrasive roughness and back. Each individual etude is its own brief examination of a subject; the etudes are often speculations, unconcluded examinations of particular questions. As Kigawa assembled these six etudes, several subjects emerged. Microcosm and macrocosm are each other’s reflections; contemplation’s object is simultaneously everything and nothing; intense examination of any particular theme leads to both outward explosion and toughly focused introversion. Kigawa brings technical precision and intellectual lucidity to Ligeti’s projects: the pianist’s rigor illuminates the composer’s modernity." - Jean Ballard Terepka,

"Gyorgy Ligeti’s Piano Etudes are considered to be some of the most difficult piano pieces out there. Taka Kigawa tackled book 1 and here are my impressions. Movement 1 "Désordre": complicated rhythms, wonderfully angular melodies. Almost like a latin Montuno piano rhythm with 20th century harmonies. Feelin’ it! Movement 2 "Cordes à vide": What can one do with the 5th interval? One can create a beautiful etude. Movement 3 "Touches bloquées": In this etude some fingers are pressed down on the keys but are not played creating some brilliantly complex rhythms and original material. Movement 4 "Fanfares": Again, complex rhythms, as if the 2 hands are playing separate pieces, very effective. Movement 5 "Arc-en-ciel": A pretty melody gets progressively more complex, yet keeping a charm throughout. Movement 6 "Automne à Varsovie": This piece is structured like African music where a melody is played in 4 different voices in different metric values, creating beautiful poly-rhythms and harmonies. Taka played all these movements with great skill and precision and it was most impressive." - Gene Pritsker, New Music Connoisseur

"The eight etudes he selected (culled from all three books) were more focused, more insistent, as he was forced to switch from Sunday drive to high speed rail. His command over two-handed counterpoint was exquisite." - Kurt Gottschalk, Bachtrack