Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
One of the best Carter collections around, and reissued at b
Christopher Culver | 01/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Warner Apex disc, a reissue of an 1992 release on Erato, contains four pieces by Elliott Carter in performance by the Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Pierre Boulez. The music here shows the kinder, gentler Carter who arose in the late 1970's, and though his writing is still biting and modernistic, there's an economy of means and a greater sweetness than his earlier mature work.
The "Oboe Concerto" (1986) was written for Heinz Holliger, who performs here. Like in his piano concerto of twenty years before, Carter doesn't make this a simple conversation between soloist and orchestra; instead, the chamber orchestra is divided into two groups, one being oboe, violas, and percussion I, the other being flute, clarinet, horn and trombline, violins, cellos, basses, and percussion II. Each of the two orchestral groups uses different harmonic intervals and, since Carter's "gimmick" is polyrhythms, different divisions of the beat. But unlike the piano concerto, there's no fatal conflict here, the soloist never commits "suicide by orchestra". Instead, the differences between each part of the ensemble merely serve to keep up an entertaining flow of action. The virtuosity of the oboe part comes in its many long, sustained lines, which Holliger told Carter are more difficult to perform than short bursts. I find this a great improvement on Carter's earlier concertos and return to it often.
"Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux" for flute and clarinet (1984) was written for the sixtieth anniversary of Pierre Boulez. Though its title is also an obscure reference to Classical Greek, the piece really is built on a contrast of rough and smooth sounds. This is a fun piece, especially in the scorrevole passages, and the way the two instruments constantly dart around each other is delightful.
"A Mirror on which to Dwell" (1976) is a setting of six poems by Elizabeth Bishop for chamber orchestra and soprano, here Phyllis Bryn-Julson. The six movements range over an immense range of emotions and techniques, but unfortunately there's not enough room here for much specific treatment. However, in general this cycle of one of Carter's most elegant pieces, and though I often prefer purely instrumental music to vocal, "A Mirror on which to Dwell" is certainly the most awesome piece on the disc for me. What is most striking is how Carter, a composer who many see as obtuse and too removed from everyday life, is here able to accurately mirror such feelings as waking to a beautiful morning or the very moment of falling out of love with someone.
"Penthode" for five groups of four instruments (1984-1985) is an unusually tranquil piece in Carter's oeuvre. David Schiff singles it out for its "lack of anxiety". Written for a programme with Boulez' "Repons", this nineteen-minute work of Carter's approximates the total abstraction and interest in pure colour of the great Frenchman. "Penthode" supposedly takes inspiration from North Indian Dhrupad music Carter discovered in the early sixties, but the listener can just enjoy it as a lovely stream of timbres, bubbling in different rhythms.
The performances here are all very satisying, as is common with the Ensemble Contemporain's efforts. And as they were recorded in the projection space at IRCAM, the sound is of the highest quality. However, the liner notes are meagre, as usual with Apex discs. One would do well to pick up a copy of David Schiff's THE MUSIC OF ELLIOTT CARTER (second ed. 1998).
If you can buy this CD in a location where it really costs budget price, this is a fine introduction to the music of Elliott Carter. Those in the U.S., however, might want instead to find instead the Deutsche Grammophon disc with the "Clarinet Concerto" and "Symphonia: Sum fluxae pretium spei", for recent Carter, or the Ars Nova budget disc with the "Piano Concerto", the height of bad-boy 1960s Carter. Needless to say, fans of the great American composer should pick this up."
Superb Carter with Boulez, Holliger & Ensemble Intercontempo
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 03/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a superb set of Elliott Carter, with three 1980s compositions, and one from the U.S. bicentennial year of 1976. The earlier version has long been unavailable in the U.S., and this Apex reissue (a WEA bargain line) came out in the U.K. in 2001, but has only popped up on Amazon USA in 2006.
The recordings of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, with Pierre Boulez conducting, were made at IRCAM in Paris in December 1987. The same works were performed at an 80th birthday concert for Carter in Paris a year later.
The highlight is the "Oboe Concerto" (1986-7), performed by Heinz Holliger. In Carter's words from the liner notes, "(i)t is in one continuous movement with the soloist accompanied in its widely varying, mercurial moods by a percussionist and four violas. The main orchestra opposes their flighty charges with a more regular set of ideas, usually on the serious side, sometimes bursting out dramatically."
"Esprit rude/esprit doux" (1985) for flute and clarinet is a lovely duet commissioned for Boulez's 60th birthday in 1985, and performed by two members of the EI. "Penthode" (1984-5) was commissioned by the EI, and dedicated to the EI and Boulez. Twenty players are divided into groups of four, and as Carter explains, "...each group...has its own repertory of expressive characters embodied in its own special field of speeds and musical intervals. While the five groups oppose or combine with each other, one long continuous line is passed from one instrument to another, binding the first and third sections of the score together."
"A Mirror on Which to Dwell: Six Poems by Elizabeth Bishop" (1975), with Phyllis Bryn-Julson singing soprano, is a lovely melancholy work in the tradition of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. It was commissioned by the Speculum Musicae in honor of the U.S. Bicentennial, and first performed in 1976.
A great set, essential for anyone devoted to or curious about the music of Elliott Carter, who approaches his 100th birthday in 2008!
See my ELLIOTT CARTER: A CENTENARY LISTENER'S GUIDE, THE THREE BEST LATE 20TH CENTURY COMPOSERS (Carter, Ligeti & Xenakis) and THE 12 BEST LATE 20TH CENTURY COMPOSERS (Birtwistle, Carter, Feldman, Gubaidulina, Kurtag, Ligeti, Nono, Reynolds, Rihm, Schnittke, Simpson & Xenakis) lists for more Carter recommendations and reviews."