Friday, December 05, 2008

Carter100 - Five Days & Counting

With only five shopping days left till Elliott Carter’s 100th Birthday, the festivities have already begun. Actually, they’ve been going on all year. When you’re that close to 100, nobody wants to take a chance so even at 99, there was much going on in celebration of his “100th Year.” During that time, I had a chance to take in a couple of events – the Pacifica Quartet’s performance of all five of his string quartets in January and the world premiere in April of his Clarinet Quintet with Charles Neidich and the Juilliard Quartet.

Last year, the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival had been dedicated solely to the music of living composers who were turning 70 that year, like John Harbison, Philip Glass, Joan Tower, John Corigliano and Ellen Taafe Zwillich. This summer, it was dedicated solely to the music of living composers who were turning 100 that year. Not surprisingly, the only composer on the program was Elliott Carter. New York Times critic Allan Kozinn blogged about it here. And Boston critic and bloggeteer Matthew Guerrieri wrote extensively about the concerts and Carter’s music that week at his blog, Soho the Dog: this link should get you started - at the end of each post are links for all of the subsequent posts.

I hadn’t planned on making any of the concerts in New York, myself, much less Boston, and I certainly don’t expect any of them to be carried live on American radio or television, but here are a few articles already appearing to get things started:

Matthew Guerreri at the Boston Globe interviews Carter who talks about being a student at Harvard 70-80 years ago. There’s more material from the interview that didn’t make it into the paper which he posted at his blog (especially wonderful are his reminiscences of winning the National Medal of Arts 1985 and having dinner at the Reagan White House - priceless!).

Keith Powers at the Boston Herald also talks with Carter in a Q&A with another article about the piece that was given its world premiere last night in Boston. (I saw no reviews at post-time.) They will perform it again at Carnegie Hall the night of his birthday. It's a work for piano and orchestra entitled “Interventions,” written for Daniel Barenboim, who'll be the pianist, and James Levine, who'll be conducting the Boston Symphony.

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Update: here's Jeremy Eichler's review of "Interventions" from the Boston Globe.

And here's a review, also by Eichler posted Dec. 6th, about an all-Carter Concert at the New England Conservatory which ends with the line, "This music has long suffered for its reputation as extremely difficult to play; these young musicians don't seem to have received that memo."

Keith Powers' review of "Interventions" was posted Dec. 6th at the Boston Herald.
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By the way, my thanks to John Clare, GBexW, who set up a Carter Birthday Countdown Clock at his blog, Classically Hip, which I, Luddite that I am, immediately stole since I couldn’t figure out how to make one myself. It appears to be set up for Greenwich Mean Time so it won’t switch over at 12:00:01am EST on December 11th, but at 5:00:01am instead. But hey, if you’re sitting up just to watch that, then you have even less of a life than I have...

Meanwhile, I plan on listening to a lot of Carter’s music this week by way of recordings, perhaps in chronological order. Maybe I’ll even get around to blogging about it...

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