Sunday, 11 December 2011

Happy Birthday, Elliott Carter!

Elliott Carter, the doyen of American composers, is 103 years old today and still composing! Long may this continue!

From his early neo-Classicism (think Stravinsky and Copland) to the modernist intensity of the third quarter of the 20th Century (where his works took time and effort), through to the somewhat more easy-going (and certainly more easy-flowing) music of the last few decades, Mr. Carter's highly individual and sometimes dauntingly serious art has occasionally baffled me, sometimes delighted me, always fascinated me.

To toast Mr. Carter, please give a listen to his riotous fanfare A Celebration of Some 100 x 150 Notes from Three Occasions for Orchestra (1986) or his A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976) with its atmospheric opening where a solo trumpet evokes a seagull's flight over Brooklyn Bridge, or (if you are up for a seriously intense piece) his First String Quartet (1951). Those works all show facets of the modernist side of Elliott Carter from different stages of his life. For those who would wonder what early, Copland-like Carter sounds like (and for those who aren't keen on modernism), please try his cheerful Holiday Overture (1944) or his short, sad Elegy (1943). From the last five years, try the beautiful, mysterious Sound Fields (2007) for string orchestra (not what you might expect from this composer) or last year's lively, likable Conversations for piano, percussion and chamber orchestra (written when the composer was a mere 101 years old).

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