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The Music of Elliott Carter (Photos Not Included)

by David Schiff

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321590,166 (5)3
Arguably the most important American composer of the century, Elliott Carter often has been more highly regarded in Europe than in his native land. Interest in his work has grown rapidly in recent years, however, and the celebration of his ninetieth birthday in December, 1998, accompanied by numerous performances and new recordings, undoubtedly will increase the attention of his fellow citizens to this remarkable figure. Authoritative and gracefully written, The Music of Elliott Carter engages composers, performers, and critics, and speaks to concert-goers, whether attuned to or alarmed by the formidable difficulty of Carter's music. David Schiff views the music from the perspective of the composer's development and relates his compositional techniques to those nonmusical arts--contemporary American poetry in particular--with which Carter has been deeply involved. The volume benefits from Schiff's extensive discussions of Carter's works with their most noted performers, including Heinz Holliger, Oliver Knussen, and Ursula Oppens, and from the generous cooperation of the composer himself. This new edition, a thoroughly reorganized, revised, and updated version of the book published in 1983, accounts for the many new works written by Carter since 1980 and accommodates the burgeoning critical literature on his music. Its features include many musical examples and a selected discography. In addition to the new foreword, the composer has provided his listing of three-to-six note chords and a note on "Voyage."… (more)
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When David Schiff finished his overview of Elliott Carter's music in 1983, Carter was already 75 years old. No one could have predicted the flood of marvelous new pieces (including three large-scale concertos and two string quartets) the composer would produce in the intervening years. This second edition is current through April 1998 and arrives in time for the composer's 90th birthday. Schiff is the ideal guide for this repertoire: a composer himself who studied with Carter, he has also conducted the Triple Duo. His writing is stylish--in the String Quartet No. 4, he writes, the second movement "seems to begin over the first violin's repeated objections." Schiff is lucid without ever being superficial. Instead of the strictly chronological organization of the first edition, he now groups the music by genre. (This system is especially helpful in understanding the five string quartets.) Each chapter has a brief general introduction--the first few paragraphs of the vocal music chapter in particular are a model of practical musical thought. There is a technical glossary, an eight-page bibliography (which might have mentioned Andrew Porter's enthusiastic New Yorker reviews of the pieces), and an 18-page discography. Although there are a few dozen musical examples, readers will need scores to follow some of the discussion. Of necessity, Schiff describes some of the most recent music instead of analyzing it. Anyone who wishes to gain a foothold in Carter's endlessly rewarding world might listen to the excellent Chicago Symphony recording of Variations for Orchestra and follow Schiff's elegant commentary. --William R. Braun

Arguably the most important American composer of the century, Elliott Carter often has been more highly regarded in Europe than in his native land. Interest in his work has grown rapidly in recent years, however, and the celebration of his ninetieth birthday in December, 1998, accompanied by numerous performances and new recordings, undoubtedly will increase the attention of his fellow citizens to this remarkable figure.

Authoritative and gracefully written, The Music of Elliott Carter engages composers, performers, and critics, and speaks to concert-goers, whether attuned to or alarmed by the formidable difficulty of Carter's music. David Schiff views the music from the perspective of the composer's development and relates his compositional techniques to those nonmusical arts--contemporary American poetry in particular--with which Carter has been deeply involved. The volume benefits from Schiff's extensive discussions of Carter's works with their most noted performers, including Heinz Holliger, Oliver Knussen, and Ursula Oppens, and from the generous cooperation of the composer himself.
  antimuzak | Nov 26, 2005 |
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Arguably the most important American composer of the century, Elliott Carter often has been more highly regarded in Europe than in his native land. Interest in his work has grown rapidly in recent years, however, and the celebration of his ninetieth birthday in December, 1998, accompanied by numerous performances and new recordings, undoubtedly will increase the attention of his fellow citizens to this remarkable figure. Authoritative and gracefully written, The Music of Elliott Carter engages composers, performers, and critics, and speaks to concert-goers, whether attuned to or alarmed by the formidable difficulty of Carter's music. David Schiff views the music from the perspective of the composer's development and relates his compositional techniques to those nonmusical arts--contemporary American poetry in particular--with which Carter has been deeply involved. The volume benefits from Schiff's extensive discussions of Carter's works with their most noted performers, including Heinz Holliger, Oliver Knussen, and Ursula Oppens, and from the generous cooperation of the composer himself. This new edition, a thoroughly reorganized, revised, and updated version of the book published in 1983, accounts for the many new works written by Carter since 1980 and accommodates the burgeoning critical literature on his music. Its features include many musical examples and a selected discography. In addition to the new foreword, the composer has provided his listing of three-to-six note chords and a note on "Voyage."

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