Tonight at 7:30 at Le Poisson Rouge, cellist Fred Sherry, soprano Tony Arnold, pianist Ursula Oppens, and several other estimable performers known for their interpretations of Elliott Carter’s music join Ensemble LPR to celebrate and remember the composer. The program includes the song cycle Tempo e Tempi and the Quintet for Piano and Strings.
Tickets/more info here.
We continue to receive reminiscences marking Elliott Carter’s recent passing at the age of 103. Below, we hear from John Aylward, a composer and Carter scholar. He spent many of his formative years in Arizona. Stories of Elliott’s 1950-’51 sojourn to the area to write the First String Quartet have remained influential on Aylward’s own creative process.
In remembering Carter, I think of how, in 1950, Carter ventured to Tucson, Arizona to compose his 1st String Quartet. Tucson is where I was born, and so I’m familiar with the intense isolation that Carter must have been seeking. In those vast, expansive desert landscapes, a certain kind of depth can be had once one is separated from the noise of our culture. The Sonoran Desert that surrounds Tucson is a place so completely removed from the concerns of our world. Coming from New York City, Carter was brave to face this isolation. But his exploratory character must have drawn him to it: a silent environment where he could imagine a music all his own.
My own experiences with Carter were transforming. I first met him in New York at a concert celebrating his 95th birthday. A performance of this 5th String Quartet made a great impression on me, and I wanted to know how it was put together. Carter was notoriously shy about discussing the technical aspects of his work and with me he was no different. Soon after, I took the time to study the work’s sketches at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Switzerland. After satisfying my technical curiosities, I realized that Carter was right to not want to ‘talk shop’ too much with me. He was concerned with being understood as an artist and not a technician: that all the rigors of his work were in service of his art.
Like the desert Carter explored while composing one of his most ground-breaking works, contemporary music itself can sometimes feel inaccessible, even to those who care about it so deeply. For those looking in, perhaps they see a window into the alienation artists can feel as they attempt relevant cultural commentary in such an abstract medium. And Carter’s music is no different, having sometimes been characterized as difficult to access. But what Carter gave us, in the example of his life and work ethic, was the opportunity to move beyond that discourse, and into a space where the rigorous pursuit, and the excitement and adventures of creation, are valued most highly. It is certainly through Carter’s persistent search, over a lifetime, that he found an original voice. Such an artistic path might set an example for any young artist worried about staking a claim too soon.
The New Music Series at William Paterson University has long been one of the most interesting musical destinations in the Garden State. On Monday, November 26th, its director, Peter Jarvis, along with the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble and guest pianist Taka Kigawa, present an ambitious evening of music that includes works by leading lights Boulez, Ligeti, Babbitt, Carter, and Stravinsky. In addition, 21st century composers Daniel Levitan, Evan Hause, and Gene Pritsker are also represented on the program.
If that weren’t enough, the concert features two premieres. Jarvis conducts his Concerto for Vibraphone and Percussion Sextet; WPU faculty member John Ferrari will play the solo part. Guest composer Robert Morris has contributed another pocket concerto for percussion ensemble to the proceedings. His Stream Runner (2007), written for marimba soloist Payton MacDonald (also a member of WPU’s faculty). will conclude the evening.
Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
7:30 PM in Shea Center’s
Suggested contribution $5
(Free for students)
William Paterson University
College of Arts & Communication
Department of Music
New Music Series
Peter Jarvis, Director
Robert Morris – Composer
Taka Kigawa – Pianist
The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble
John Ferrari, Payton MacDonald, and Peter Jarvis
This Wednesday: Spektral Quartet plays Elliott Carter’s Second String Quartet in Chicago. And they aren’t just playing … they’re acting it out!
the Spektral Quartet
An Auditory Scenario for the performers to act out with their instruments
Wednesday, Nov 14th, 2012
National Pastime Theatre
941 W Lawrence Ave, 4th floor
$15 advance online here
$20 at the door
$10 students with valid ID
On Thursday at Symphony Space, string duo Laurie Smukler (violin) and Joel Krosnick (cello) present a concert that includes both classical and contemporary duets. The program features one of the first musical tributes to Elliott Carter since his passing on Monday: the late work Tres Duetti. Krosnick, a former member of the Juilliard Quartet, collaborated closely with Carter, premiering and performing a number of his works. Another American composer with whom he worked closely was the self-styled “Radical Traditionalist” Ralph Shapey. Thursday’s concert has Duo Variations, a work by Shapey composed for Krosnick, slated for performance as well. Below, the cellist shares some words about knowing and working with Carter.
“For those of us who grew up as American musicians in the 1950′s playing the music of our time, and who have continued to do so until now, Elliott Carter has been a seminal philosophical presence in our entire lives as musicians. From the appearance of the astonishingly massive Quartet No. 1 in 1951, through the four other quartets culminating with the 5th Quartet in the late 1990′s, Mr. Carter has been, for just a small example, an integral part of the life of anyone who loved and played string quartets. The Juilliard Quartet premiered the 2nd and 3rd Quartets of Mr. Carter, and of course played them all. (We will play the 5th String Quartet at a Juilliard School concert on December 19, which was to be a celebration of Mr. Carter’s 104th birthday.)
“My first memorable experience with the music of Elliott Carter was of course the Cello Sonata from 1948, perhaps the most important cello sonata of my lifetime as a musician. I had the great good fortune to be allowed by Mr. Carter to make an early recording of that great work in the mid 1960′s with the pianist Paul Jacobs for Nonesuch Records (followed in the 1990′s by a second recording of the work with my pianist partner, Gilbert Kalish, for Arabesque Records). And since that time, I have had the privilege of being a part of innumerable performances over many years of the Cello Sonata, all five of the String Quartets, the Harpsichord Sonata, the Triple Duo, the Oboe Quartet, the Figment No. 1 for Solo Cello, the Tre Duetti for Violin and Cello, the Piano Quintet, and the Clarinet Quintet (written for and premiered by Charles Neidich and the Juilliard String Quartet).
“As I have said, Elliott Carter has been a major presence in my life as a musician, almost from the start. Even considering his advanced age of 103, it is suddenly astonishing that he will no longer be with us writing his great music.”
When I heard about Elliott Carter’s passing on Monday, many thoughts went went through my mind, including wondering whether the composer had gotten to hear cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s exquisite performance of his Cello Concerto. Her interpretation on a new disc from Decca is a distinctive one, rivaling previous interpreters Yo-Yo Ma and Fred Sherry in terms of technical acumen and bringing a dramatic heft to the piece’s solo part that is most impressive. I hadn’t yet seen the video (embedded below) of a meeting this past summer of Weilerstein and Carter, in which the composer coaches her through some of the concerto’s trickiest passages. Alex Ross posted it yesterday on The Rest is Noise and I’m grateful to see Carter in a convivial mood, wit undiminished and with musical insights aplenty to share.
If you haven’t heard the recording, I strongly recommend it. Not only is Weilerstein’s performance of the Carter noteworthy, she, along with the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim, also presents a beautifully vibrant performance of the Elgar Concerto and a supple rendition of Bruch’s Kol Nidre.
Allan Kozinn reported yesterday in the New York Times that Elliott Carter will be made a Commander in the French Legion of Honor. The composer, who turns 104 in December, will be presented this, the highest distinction given by France, in a ceremony later this year to be held at the Cultural Services Office of the French Embassy in New York.
Carter first mentioned being contacted about this in an interview for Bloomberg back in June; it’s nice to have the details confirmed. For those keeping score, Kozinn reports that Carter will outrank Paul McCartney, who is an Officer, not a Commander, in the Legion of Honor. Of course, McCartney’s only seventy; presumably he’s got time for an eventual promotion!