American composer Elliott Carter was born on December 11th, 1908. That he is alive is either an accomplishment, or good fortune – probably some of both. That he is still composing is incredible. Carter was born the same hear Ford released the Model T, and has known practically every major composer from the mid-20th century on. Apparently he composed more than 40 new works between the ages of 90 and 100, and is still going strong. His upcoming birthday was brought to mind by an email I received from New Music Concerts in Toronto, who are planning a 102nd Birthday Concert for Carter at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre (Canadian spelling) on December 10th.
At the time of this writing, Carter plans to travel to Toronto to attend the event. He and New Music Concerts Artistic Director Robert Aitken are old friends. Carter has been to Toronto many times, and 42 of his pieces have been peformed there, which brings me back to this upcoming concert.
In the email I received from New Music Concerts, they list the works being played in this concert, which I have copied here:
Performers: Rick Sacks; Patricia Green; Max Christie; Fujiko Imajishi; David Hetherington; Virgil Blackwell; Robert Aitken; New Music Concerts Ensemble
Figment V (2009)* for solo marimba
Poems of Louis Zukovsky (2008)* for soprano and clarinet
Tre Duetti (2008-2009)* for violin and cello
Concertino (2009) for bass clarinet and ensemble (World Premiere performance)
Nine by Five (2009)* (wind quintet)
Flute Concerto (2008)*
* Canadian premiere
Look at the dates for these pieces. This is an entire program of works he has written in the past three years!
I so wish I could be there for the event, but I am in New York at the time. However, for anyone interested in Carter, or this concert, I have some good news. CBC Radio will be there recording the event for future broadcast, which means it will eventually be available from their website – I will pass on more information about that broadcast when I get it.
If you want to hear an extended interview with Elliott Carter, here is one that composer Paul Steenhuisen did on November 10th, one month shy of Carter’s 102nd birthday. This podcast gives a real sense of his music, and also his personality. I can’t recommend it enough. Paul Steenhuisen does a terrific job of giving a sense of Carter’s music, and the context of his life.
Finally, Naxos has many CDs of Carter’s music — available from Naxos through ClassicsOnline, including a CD that New Music Concerts made called “Carter, E: 100th Anniversary Release”. Seeing this CD reminded me of how deep his friendship with the folks in Toronto runs.
I also suggest listening to Carter’s five string quartets, recorded by the Pacifica Quartet. Each quartet was written about 10 years after the previous one, so it gives a sense of his musical development over five decades.