VIENNA - Gyorgy Sandor Ligeti, the composer who left his mark on later 20th century music, died on Monday aged 83, the Austrian APA news agency reported.
Ligeti, an Austrian citizen of ethnic Hungarian origin, died in Vienna
after a long illness, the agency quoted his German publisher, Schott Music, as saying.
The composer of the opera "Le Grand Macabre" is known in the music world for the variety of his work, while general audiences have heard his compositions in Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Ligeti was born in what was then Romania on May 28, 1923, into a middle-class Jewish family. He managed to escape deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, although many of his relatives were sent to Auschwitz, an ordeal only his mother survived.
Ligeti was himself constrained to hard labour in 1940. At the end of the war he began studying music, in Budapest, later fleeing the Hungarian communist regime to Vienna in 1956.
His early works were inspired by his compatriot Bela Bartok, but he came into contact with the avant-garde following his arrival in Austria, including composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
He was initially interested in popular music and broke new musical ground with his 1961 work "Atmospheres", used by Kubrick in "2001".
The work featured huge chords and what Ligeti called "micropolyphony", with harmonies merging into each other.
Ligeti’s other major works from the period include Requiem (1963-1965) and "Lux aeterna" (1966).
The composer’s later, more rhythmic works include "Melodien" (1971) and "Le Grand Macabre", (1974-77), one of the great operas of the second half of the 20th century.
Ligeti is recognized as one of the more imaginative and at times jarring composers of his generation, but also one of the most accomplished.
Aged 60 he embarked on a series of "Studies" (1985-95), now seen as masterpieces of contemporary piano music.
'Certainly not post-modern'
From that time, his work became characterized by its complex rhythms, influenced by both ancient polyphonies and African music.
"My compositions defy categorization. They are neither tonal, nor atonal and certainly not post-modern," he declared, adding, "They always begin with a simple central idea and lead to extreme complexity".
In the last two decades of the century he produced a piano concerto, a violin concerto and a number of works for horn.
From 1973 to 1989 he taught composition at the Hamburg school of music in Germany, later dividing his time between Vienna and Hamburg.
Ligeti had been seriously ill for some time and had spent several years
confined to a wheelchair.
Nonetheless he continued to win honours including the Frankfurt Music prize in 2005, the most recent in a series of accolades that included Austria’s prestigious State Award in 1990, the UNESCO first prize in 1969 and the International Music Council and Sibelius prizes in 2000.