Classical Music Forum banner

Favourite work by Elliott Carter

885 Views 25 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  Simon Moon
I found his 2nd Quartet to be quite expressive. What is your absolute favourite, or if you can't choose 2 or 3? I will give them a try, even if I did already before. Write a bit about it if you could.
1 - 1 of 26 Posts
A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976)
:: Boulez/NYPO [Columbia ’77]

This is yet another work in which Carter divvies up his resources and variously juxtaposes or pits the resulting sub-forces against one another. In this case, he divvies up one big orchestra into three little orchestras of differing constitution and assigns each its very own set of four movements. Carter choreographs things so that each orchestra plays a movement in turn, with each movement beginning some time before the preceding movement ends. The result, then, is a continuous, overlapping twelve-movement work. This allows for a good deal of variety and complexity without too much density. Indeed, textures are often quite transparent, and even when they aren’t, when the music is relatively busy and dense, the orchestration is such that a focused listener can discern most any and every voice through the din, giving the illusion of transparency.

The Symphony is slowly dramatic in its prevailing work-long descent from high pitch to low, and there are many affecting solos, some downright whistleable (if you’re a very very good whistler), that emerge throughout, the opening trumpet call being the most conspicuous of them. In fact, that very trumpet call is the single most beautiful episode I’ve heard in any Elliott Carter work; it was inspired by Hart Crane’s description of a sea gull over Brooklyn Bridge, and it sounds a bit like the trumpet part from Copland’s Quiet City as played by a trumpeter on a mild acid bender.

Boulez manages to control his strong and ever-present urge to indulge in blatant analytical highlighting and effectively balance and coordinate things. The various solos are nicely characterized, but there’s an air of caution about the proceedings on the whole. Even so, I have to give Boulez and the NYPO high marks here, for I rather doubt that the work’s intricate and touchy internal relationships could be so well established and made clear in a reading of Mitropoulos-or De Sabata-like passion and intensity—though I’d love to hear an attempt at such a reading.
See less See more
  • Like
  • Helpful
Reactions: 2
1 - 1 of 26 Posts