Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Latest from Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter’s 103rd Birthday may be less than six months away – is it more cumbersome to refer to someone as 102½? – and even though he is writing less than he’s been in the past few years (there was a veritable flood of new works leading up to his 100th birthday), he is still composing even if they’re “short” works. But what Carter packs into a piece in ten minutes can still make a major statement.

There have been two recent premieres of works composed in 2010 and both with orchestra – which means there are a lot of details involved, more than writing short pieces for just a few instruments.

You can read Joe Barron’s account of the Concertino for Bass Clarinet & Orchestra, receiving its American premiere in New York City earlier this month (it received its world premiere in Toronto last November).

Composed for Virgil Blackwell, one of the best bass clarinet performers on the planet, who has long been Mr. Carter’s assistant, the work apparently came as a surprise: his first awareness of the piece was a fax from Carter with a few measures of music for bass clarinet and the typical composer’s query, “is this possible?”

Boosey & Hawkes, the publisher’s website, wrote:
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“One of the centenarian composer’s most recent works, the Concertino received its world premiere this past December in Toronto in an all-Carter concert celebrating the composer’s102nd birthday. The world premiere performance also featured Blackwell as soloist. In his review of the concert, Robert Everett-Green of Toronto’s Globe and Mail said ‘the Concertino...conjured a magical passage of deeply resonant sound that was much more than the sum of its parts.’”
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There is also another work for soloists and chamber orchestra that was premiered on June 26th, just two days ago, at the Aldeburgh Festival in England, a work they commissioned and the third recent work they’ve premiered.

The review in the Guardian, posted yesterday, refers to the double concerto for piano, percussion and a chamber orchestra of 20 players as “Dialogues” which is confusing, since Carter called a 2003 work for piano and orchestra written for Daniel Barenboim “Dialogues” (and there is a “Dialogues II” in the works, for Barenboim, as well). The Boosey & Hawkes website refers to this new work as “Conversations” (close but no cigar).

This review, posted at the Telegraph (which contains a generic you-tube video interview with Carter), gets the name right.

[Updated 6-29: ...and this review, from London's Financial Times.]

Joe Barron’s blog, “Liberated Dissonance,” also mentions, in a response to a reader’s comment, there are other works in addition to “Conversations” in the Carter Pipeline: “Dialogues II, written for Barenboim; a sextet (for unspecified instruments) that is also rather reminiscent of the 70s; and a brief string trio that was described to me as a tiny viola concerto.”

Incidentally, Mr. Barron has also initiated a Facebook Campaign to get Elliott Carter to host Saturday Night Live.

- Dick Strawser

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