I Heart Carter

I just returned from a performance of Elliott Carter's String Quartet No. 1...performed by the Pacifica Quartet at the Cy Twombly Gallery (part of the Menil Collection) here in Houston. I had never heard the piece before, and I listened without a score (Mr. Fischer was sitting a few seats away avidly following his). I guess that I can't claim to be new to Carter (since I just did a recital of four Carter works and recently played a movement of the cello sonata from memory!)...but I really felt that the piece worked on a musical level...most people have a hard time relating to Carter's abstract rhythmical language...but I think the real reason (aside from his obvious innovations to rhythm and construction) that he has become such a legend, is that his pieces work emotionally beyond all that.

I kind of realized in the end, during the final violin cadenza, that I was totally captivated by the piece. Even though it was over forty minutes long (of pretty abstract material) a lot of the piece really spoke to me, and it seemed to the audience as well. I really enjoyed the slow movement, with the dueling duos: forceful cello and viola recitative style against the two very high and slow violins. I really want to play this piece now (and not just becuase it starts with a cello cadenza).

I didn't realize that Carter was going to become such a large part of my life...I kind of ended up doing mostly Carter on my degree recital (4 Carter works and one other contemporary piece)...this was really my first experience with Carter, and I dove right in. This summer he will become a much larger part of my life when I take part in his 100th birthday celebration at Tanglewood...46 Carter chamber pieces have been programmed. I have no idea what I will be playing (hopefully something really good) but I know at least that I will be taking part in the two orchestra concerts consisting of only Carter music!! Yikes.

And with a face like that, who could say no?

1 comment:

Joe Barron said...


I'm planning to attend the Tanglewood festival. I'll be fdriving up to Philadelphia, and I hope to see you there. I've been a fan of Mr. Carter's music for many years. In January, I heard the Symphonia performed at Juilliard under James Levine. I came away feeling that if a student orchestra can do such a great job with such a big, difficult piece, then the future of Mr. Carter's music is assured.