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Thread: Elliott Carter

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    Default Elliott Carter

    Today (Dec. 11, 2008) is Elliott Carter's 100th birthday, and from reports, he is alive and well AND composing. I have to admit that I am not familiar with his work at all. Despite my celebration of Messiaen's 100th yesterday, I am having to neglect Carter.

    Any suggestions on where to begin with him? For some reason, I have never been able to get a grip on his work.
    Last edited by Taggart; Jan-08-2015 at 19:44. Reason: Improve word choice

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    Senior Member marval's Avatar
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    I have to say I don't know him that well, but what I have heard I was not that keen on. Maybe I need to listen to some more a bit.

    This is his Hiyoku for two Clarinets.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHE-WgCHgDo

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    msegers,

    First, you'll need to resolve this apparent contradiction:

    "I am not familiar with his work at all."

    "I have never been able to get a grip on his work."

    Next, you'll need to tell us what you ARE familiar with. If you haven't had much experience with 20th century music generally, or with only the "neo-" or "post-" folks like Hanson, Bax, Greenberg, or Lauridsen, then we'll need to direct you first to the very earliest Carter pieces, like The Minotaur from 1947. Trouble is, the early works don't a lead a listener very well into the later works. Once one is familiar with the later works, one can clearly see what the connections are, but that's harder to do from knowing just the earlier works.

    If you like orchestral music generally, then I'd say start with the Variations. If you like piano music, then the piano sonata. If you like concertos, then the Double Concerto. Cello? The cello sonata.

    These are just to start with, note. Not necessarily his best or greatest or whatever, though he's been a pretty consistent composer for the past sixty years.

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    I'm playing his Elegy for viola and piano. It's a very interesting piece, and I like it. Not very familiar with his other stuff, though I do have Bernstein/NYPO playing his Concerto for Orchestra. Must listen to that eventually...
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    I attended a performance of works by Carter in LA a week ago and last night listened to a program on KUSC in LA featuring the works of Carter. There have also been several interviews with him on the radio this last week. I first heard his music on an FM station in Chicago about 1956 or '57. The Holiday Overture was played and I finally found a CD with this music on Naxos about 3 years ago. Have no fear of the new for all things change.

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    I just bought the CD/DVD set Naxos released last year, on the occassion of Carter's 100th birthday. The CD has a number of his chamber works, composed from the 1990's onwards.

    The highlight of the CD is Dialogues for piano and chamber ensemble. It is, as the title suggests, a set of dialogues between the soloist and the ensemble. An interesting piece. I think that there is a certain influence of his friend Edgard Varese, but this might be a superficial impression, as I don't know much about post WWII music in general. However, listening to the whole CD, it is clear that Carter has a unique style. & compared to composers like Varese or Xenakis, I don't find it that hard to comprehend.

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    I'm a big fan of Mr Carter's works. The early symphonies and piano concerto are much more accessible to the more tonal music lover. His Boston concerto and Cello concerto on Bridge Records are delightful!!!

    Naxos have been releasing many of his works, so it is easy to sample him on the website.

    What a great inspiration for all when a man can be composing and stay in good health at age 100.
    I'm very impressed. He is our last living link to that Golden Age of American composers. He knew them all from Copland and Creston to Diamond,etc.

    Jim

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    He's an interesting composer, but that's about it. I find his work way too experimental for my tastes.

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    I think his music can be likended to a cubist or abstract painting. He gives you snippets of a tune, played in different ways. The instruments bounce ideas off eachother as if in a conversation. It's up to the listener to put the jigsaw together. Even the title of a recent work (on the Naxos CD I mentioned above) seems to allude to this: it's called Mosaic.

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    Mosaic is a fantastic piece.

    I'm a passionate admirer of Carter's work. I especially love his Concerto for Orchestra, Symphony of Three Orchestras and Penthode.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mirror Image View Post
    He's an interesting composer, but that's about it. I find his work way too experimental for my tastes.
    Try the Symphony #1 and the Piano concerto. They are tonal and very well done.The Naxos CD is worth the listen.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by handlebar View Post
    Try the Symphony #1 and the Piano concerto. They are tonal and very well done.The Naxos CD is worth the listen.

    Jim
    Tonal or not, I'm not keen of Carter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mirror Image View Post
    Tonal or not, I'm not keen of Carter.
    Understood.

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    Listening to recent works of Carter from the 2000's such as Mosaics & Dialogues, which I mentioned above, it is actually quite amazing how he has continued to produce works so fresh into his old age. I mean we all know about some composers throughout history, who became inflexible & crotchety in their old age. Not so with Carter. Those pieces still show a willingness to push the boundaries in very interesting ways. Apparently, he still composes on a daily basis. I hope we get a chance to hear some more of his new compositions, as the small amount I've heard already have been superb...

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    Carter's one of my favorite American composers, and one of the first modern composers that I really liked (I'm a big fan of atonal/"experimental" music now). My introduction to Carter was this wonderful CD:

    http://www.amazon.com/Elliott-Carter...4474123&sr=8-7

    Give it a listen, msegers.
    Take a look at the Bandit's blog, Americana Avenue.

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