carter-nonesuch-retrospective.jpgCARTER: Selected Works. Various Artists. Nonesuch 510893-2 [4 cd]. 269 minutes.


This four disc set, titled “A Nonesuch Retrospective”, was released in honor of Elliott Carter’s 100th birthday. It is an outstanding (and bargain-priced!) introduction to the composer, covering the majority of his work between the Piano Sonata (1945) to the Robert Lowell song cycle In Sleep, In Thunder (1983).

The music is arranged in chronological order on the four discs, so Carter’s development in these crucial years is audible. We almost never listen to concert music this way””in the order in which it was composed. We usually listen to groups of pieces by genre and/or instrumentation, and the unusual order is quite telling. At times, it feels like one large piece with different sections having different instrumentations.

An important and welcome addition is the inclusion of a titanic reading of the Variations for Orchestra (1955) by the Chicago Symphony, led by Carter champion James Levine, previously released by DG. Less welcome is the omission of the Paul Zukovsky/Gilbert Kalish premiere recording of the Duo for Violin and Piano (1974), which is one of Carter’s most personal compositions. (Does anyone know if that performance is available on CD?)

Most enthusiastic Carter fans will have most, if not all, of these recordings; highly recommended if you don’t.

One Response to “Carter: A Nonesuch Retrospective”
  1. Joe Barron says:

    The Zukofsky-Kalish reading Duo has not been released on CD, but several other, better recordings are available. The LP release was something of a failure, given Zukofsky’s chilly playing and the uneven miking that puts the piano far in the background. Perhaps the engineers at Nonesuch were unable to remaster it to their satisfaction. One highlight of the new set Steve doesn’t mention is Paul Jacobs’s perfromance of Night Fantasies, which was previously unavailable on CD and is certainly not a failure.

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