What Bob Dylan Meant by "Forever Young"
Joe Barron | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States | 12/14/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After what seems like years of delay, Mode has released this CD of chamber and vocal music in time for Elliott Carter's 95th birthday, which fell on Dec. 11, 2003. It was worth the wait. The Quintet for Piano and Strings (1997) is one of the two or three pinnacles of Carter's prolific eighties. Though undeniably an example of the his late style, it harks back to the First Quartet (1951!) in its long-lined writing for strings. The music is expansive and concise, light-hearted and dramatic all at once, and it is played to perfection by Ursula Oppens and the Arditti Quartet, the performers for whom it was written. The Arditti also provides the first recording of the brief, haunting Fragment II for string quartet (not to be confused with the FIGMENT No. 2 for solo cello). For the rest, there is a fine performance of the Quintet for Piano and Winds (the third recording and just as good as either of the others), and two vocal pieces: Tempo e tempi from 1998, and Syringa from 1978, one of Carter's most powerful works, written when he was a young man of 69. Tempo e tempi, settings of eight texts in Italian, contains some of the loveliest, most sensuous music Carter has ever written. To my ear, soprano Lucy Shelton is not as warm or expressive as Katherine Ciesinski in Syringa (Bridge 9014), or as Susan Narucki in Tempo e Tempi (also Bridge, No. 9111), but the engineering on this recording is superb, and the clarity of instrumental detail alone makes these performances worth owning."
The 1990s chamber works are phenomenal
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 08/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This state-of-the-art Mode recording of (mainly) recent chamber works by Elliott Carter is phenomenal. Included are three outstanding works, the "Quintet for Piano and Strings" (1997 -- 14'56), the "Quintet for Piano and Winds" (1991 -- 22'08), and "Tempo e Tempi" (1998 -- 16'16) for a quintet of soprano, oboe, clarinet, violin and cello. Ursula Oppens and the Arditti Quartet perform the "Piano Quintet" beautifully. It is a great example of the clarity and (relative) simplicity of the late Carter -- truly remarkable. It was a tour performing this piece that led to the recording of this disc. The piano/winds quintet was written at the request of oboist Heinz Holliger, on the model of Mozart's K.452. The music is a rapid dialogue of three lines -- piano, horn, and reed trio. It's light, witty and engaging, very much in the spirit of Mozart. Finally, "Tempo e tempi" (Time and Times) sets to music the poetry of Eugenio Montale, and is Carter's tribute to Italy, where he has spent much time over the years. The eight short sections are sung by Lucy Shelton -- absolutely lovely.
Also included are two shorter works, "Fragment II" for string quartet, and "Retrouvailles" for piano, and both are charming. There is only one less-than-stellar element for me, and that is "Syringa," the 1978 vocal work for soprano (in English), baritone (in Greek), and ensemble, based on the story of Orpheus. The John Ashberry poem which is sung by the soprano is quite clever, archly modernist and self-conscious, but I don't find the music compelling.
This disc is a testimony to all involved, documenting at the highest level the astoundingly prolific Elliott Carter, who celebrated his 95th birthday in 2003!"