György Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1, titled Métamorphoses nocturnes, was composed in 1953–54. It is thus representative of what the composer himself used to call "the prehistoric Ligeti", referring to the works he wrote before leaving Hungary in 1956. Ligeti was inspired to write this quartet by Bartók's two middle string quartets (the third and fourth), though he knew these works only from their scores, performances of them being banned under communist regimes at the time.
It was premiered at the Vienna Musikverein on 8 May 1958 by the Ramor Quartet, an ensemble that had also fled into exile.
The work is written in one continuous movement, which can be divided into seventeen contrasting sections:
Presto – Prestissimo
molto sostenuto – Andante tranquillo
Tempo di Valse, moderato, con eleganza, un poco capriccioso
Subito: molto sostenuto
Allegretto, un poco gioviale
Allarg. Poco più mosso
Subito allegro con moto, string. poco a poco sin al prestissimo