György Sándor Ligeti (; Hungarian: Ligeti György Sándor, pronounced [ˈliɡɛti ˈɟørɟ ˈʃaːndor]; 28 May 1923 – 12 June 2006) was a Hungarian composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as "one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century" and "one of the most innovative and influential among progressive figures of his time".
Born in Transylvania, Romania, he lived in Hungary before emigrating to Austria in 1956, and became an Austrian citizen in 1968. In 1973 he became professor of composition at the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik und Theater until he retired in 1989. He died in Vienna in 2006.
Restricted by the authorities of Communist Hungary, only when he reached the west in 1956 could he fully realise his passion for avant-garde music and develop new compositional techniques. After experimenting with electronic music in Cologne, his breakthrough came with orchestral works such as Atmosphères, for which he used a technique he later dubbed micropolyphony. After writing his "anti-opera" Le Grand Macabre, Ligeti shifted away from chromaticism and towards polyrhythm for his later works.
He is best known by the public for the use of his music in film soundtracks. Although he did not directly compose any film scores, excerpts of pieces composed by him were taken and adapted for film use. Most famously this occurred in the films of Stanley Kubrick, particularly with the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also contained pieces from other classical composers.
Ligeti's health deteriorated after the turn of the millennium and he died in Vienna on 12 June 2006 at the age of 83. Although it was known that he had been ill for several years and had used a wheelchair for the last three years of his life, his family declined to release details of his cause of death.
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Art Secretary Franz Morak (de) both paid tribute to Ligeti. His funeral was held at the Vienna Crematorium at the Vienna Central Cemetery, with the Republic of Austria and the Republic of Hungary represented by their respective cultural affairs ministers. The ashes were finally buried at the cemetery in a grave dedicated to him by the City of Vienna.
He was survived by his wife Vera and son Lukas.