György Ligeti has given very precise timing indications for all the Etudes together with the musical markings. For example, the timing indication for Etude no.12 is 2.56 minutes and Etude no.14a is 1.41 minutes. After consideration, I have decided to follow the musical markings rather than the strict timing indications of these works.
Metronomic marks and timing indications of composers have always been problematic for interpreters. Composers innerly hear the work they are creating, setting sometimes very fast tempos which are not always tested on the instrument. The performer who wants to deliver all the nuances, the accents and play the work as close as possible to the composer’s score and requirements often faces the dilemma whether to play according to the work’s musical indications or follow the timing marks. The latter choice may result in omitting some important musical signs which become practically impossible to render at high speeds. My preference where necessary has been for the musical markings. Ligeti himself seems to point in this direction when he writes in the notes to the 7th Etude that “the time signature only acts as a guideline”.
© Idil Biret