Congratulations Commander Carter

Elliott Carter in New York, 1983.

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!

Anthony Cheung: “Running the (Full) Gamut” (Video)

Talea Ensemble

This past Saturday, I enjoyed seeing the Talea Ensemble join forces with Strasbourg, France’s Linea Ensemble in a concert at Rose Studio in Lincoln Center. My review will run later this week on Musical America. In the meantime, here’s Talea’s Artistic Director and pianist Anthony Cheung performing one of his own works.

Happy 102nd Birthday Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter at Miller Theatre. Credit: Jon Simon

Boulez's 85th celebrated - a bit late - at Miller. Photo: Jon Simon

Elliott Carter turns 102 today! He was at Miller Theatre this past Monday night at the all Pierre Boulez concert put on by the Talea Ensemble. This was the last of many concerts celebrating Boulez’s 85th birthday (which occurred back in March).

The group played the US premiere of the latest version of Dérive 2: a work composed in 1988 to celebrate Carter’s 80th birthday. 22 years later, Boulez, now 85 himself, has expanded the piece to well over double its original length!

Talea Ensemble at Miller. Photo credit: Jon Simon.

As Raymond Bisha wrote on the Naxos Blog, Elliott Carter is planning to spend his 102nd birthday in Toronto, at a concert comprised entirely of works he’s written in the past two years!

Another kind of minimalism

Luc Ferrari

Didascalies 2

Sub Rosa LP

Obsessive, unpublished, etched in vinyl

Composer Luc Ferrari passed away in 2005. One of his last – unpublished – works, Didascalies 2 for two pianos and viola was premiered posthumously in 2008. This Sub Rosa LP includes both the dress rehearsal and premiere performance by pianists Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven & Claude Berset, and violist Vincent Royer.

Didascalies 2 is a fascinating piece in that it combines the repeated notes and ostinato passages of minimalism with passages of spiky dissonance and, towards its climax, an obsessively sustained, loud held note (courtesy of the viola). Ferrari’s use of repetition here presents at first like process music. But the angst of overlaid crunches and sudden blurs of chromaticism destabilizes any sense of the pattern being supported in the musical texture. Rather, it serves as a pugnacious and unrepentant irritant; an obsessive, nagging worry that won’t go away.

Eventually, when repeated notes give way to sustain in the piece’s last section, one hears a further level of defiant insistence. While one can trace affinities between this and the works of Louis Andriessen and Charlemagne Palestine, Didascalies 2 is a riveting message sent from beyond. Ferrari hasn’t gone gently into the night, and for that we should be abundantly grateful.