With his centenary year ending, at last there comes a vocal project worthy of one of the most iconic and adventurous composers of the 20th century, György Ligeti. That project comes in the name and shape of Wonderland, by the celebrated King’s Singers. To be exact, while the project is built around Ligeti’s eerily beautiful Nonsense Madrigals, the composer’s delightfully zany world is embellished by works – equally and beautifully daft – by seven other composers who take us through the rabbit hole of Ligeti’s making.
Makiko Kinoshita, Ola Gjeilo, Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, Joe Hisaishi, Judith Bingham, Malcolm Williamson and Paul Patterson give us equal cause for merriment and joy as they leap off Ligeti’s song cycle with marvellous works of their own.
Together the seven composers create a parallel world evocative of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland (that Alice tumbles into), as magical as Ligeti’s madcap world (not unlike his Breughelland – a world derived from the paintings of Breughel and Bosch – from his opera Le Grand Macabre). Only this Wonderland is one infinitely more light-hearted, evoking Ligeti’s inimitably personal manner with a lyric often expressed in a complex rhythmic style in which conflicting layers of tempi are used to drive narratives – and the music – ever onward.
In the wrong hands these works might sound merely odd. But The King’s Singers deliver the crazy lyrics with consummate musicality, allowing the narratives of their strange beauty to flower.