György Ligeti, one of the most important composers of the second half of the twentieth century, died in 2006. Fifteen years previously, the musicians of the Asko Ensemble met Ligeti for the first time during a concert in Helsinki. They worked intensively with him on three of his pieces. The bond they developed became even closer when Ligeti renewed his acquaintance with Reinbert de Leeuw and the Schönberg Ensemble. With these ensembles conducted by de Leeuw, Ligeti found the ideal performers of his non-symphonic music. At the composer’s invitation, many performances followed throughout Europe.
Ligeti was exacting when it came to performances of his music. However through years of working together, the musicians came to know precisely what he wanted from them. Ligeti, de Leeuw and the musicians of Asko|Schönberg became perfectly attuned to each other. After Ligeti’s death, the musicians felt a strong desire to convey to others what they had learned about an ideal performance of his music. So arose the idea of beginning the Academy.
For not only with Ligeti were such close bonds formed, but with all of the composers whose pieces were regularly placed on the music stands. Through this, the musicians have developed a love for and performance experience with the music of Elliot Carter (1908), Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006), György Kurtág (1926, Sofia Gubaidulina (1934) and many others. How their music should be played, what a composer meant with a particular notation, what was going through his or her mind when writing down a given passage: Reinbert de Leeuw and the ensemble know these things better than anyone.
Of course, it’s not just about elderly or late composers. Frequently, the ensemble hosts younger composers. They, too, share with the musicians during rehearsals their thoughts on the ideal performance of their scores. Conversely, the musicians share knowledge of the instruments’ possibilities and performance capabilities with the composers. Consequently, a second important facet of the Academy will consist of forming workshops with composers, conductors and soloists.
The acquired knowledge and experience must be transformed into performance of the repertoire for which the ensembles have become known. Young musicians are offered the opportunity to compile programs of their own from the repertoire and new works, making use of the ensembles’ facilities. This is the third pillar upon which the Academy is founded. It is not only a matter of acquiring knowledge and experience, but also putting them to use in one’s own production. A closing presentation is indeed necessary to test the Academy students’ knowledge and experience at the end of the year.