Thursday, September 08, 2011

Elliott Carter and the Cello: Sonata, Concerto

If you've followed this blog for any period of time, you're probably aware one of my favorite composers is Elliott Carter who will turn 103 in three months. His publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, had posted three short films from an interview recorded last year in which Carter discusses his life, his music and what motivated his creativity over the years.

Film No. 1 -- The Early Years
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Film No. 2 -- Symphony and Opera
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Film No. 3 -- Poets and Composers

Thanks to John Clare for pointing these out to me.

I've been wanting to post these two videos from YouTube for a long time and just haven't gotten around to it (as I've put off so many things: procrastinatus sum), so here are two works by Carter written for the cello during different periods of his career.

The Cello Sonata, written in 1948, was a breakthrough piece, leaving his populist style behind and establishing many of the ideas that would identify his future musical voice, especially the rhythmic complexities as well as the contrapuntal layering of textures. Here, the cello plays a rhapsodic, emotional line (very "right-brain") against the severely logical piano part with its almost metronomic regularity (very "left-brain").

The argument, whether in Bach's day or Brahms', concerned the role of the brain versus the role of the heart which were usually considered to be mutually exclusive. Carter combines the two in an on-going dialogue to create a unified work of disparate elements.

This video includes the score, but as often happens with YouTube postings, the performers are not credited.
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For some reason, this poster apparently did not get around to the 4th Movement, so here is a different (and likewise uncredited!) performance recorded by students at McGill University in 2009.
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Here is Elliott Carter writing for the cello 52 years later. The Cello Concerto, written for Yo-Yo Ma, was composed in 2000 and premiered September 27th, 2001. This video was filmed at the dress rehearsal for a performance by Juilliard student Dane Johansen with the Juilliard Orchestra conducted by James Levine. Mr. Johansen won the Juilliard's Concerto Competition that year and had since gone on to become a member of the Escher Quartet.

Recently, I posted about more recent works by Mr. Carter, one completed and premiered in November, 2010, and another premiered this past June.

- Dr. Dick
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Header photo credit: screen-capture from opening of Boosey&Hawkes documentary film directed by Tommy Pearson of Red Ted Films.

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