Presto luminoso: Fluido, costante, sempre molto ritmico
The concerto is a prime example of the composer's exploration of polyrhythms. Ligeti has said that he considers it to be his most complex and technically demanding score. The work is scored for a reduced orchestra with many unusual instruments such as a harmonica, slide whistles, and an ocarina.
The first and fifth movements have some minimalist elements and explore the extreme registers of the piano. The second movement starts slow and mysterious, similar to Béla Bartók's "night music". After a whip crack which marks a climax, the woodwind play a dissonant passage in their highest registers, accompanied by descending chromatic chords from the piano and the xylophone. The movement ends with an almost silent harmonica passage.