May 2006

Elliot Carter – A Musical Portrait
Presented by New Music Concerts in association with the Music Gallery
May 27, 2006The Music GalleryToronto
Melancholy and Modernism
by David Fujino
We had just watched Frank Scheffer's "A Labyrinth of Time" (2004), a biographical film about Elliott Carter.

The film presented the many forces of 20th century art, culture, world wars, and modern living that reverberate in Elliott Carter's richly detailed music.

Meanwhile, two rows in front of me, sat the star of the film, 97 years young composer, Elliott Carter, awaiting performances of his solo and duet compositions.

Flautist and friend, Robert Aitken, stepped up first, playing "Scrivo In Vento" a piece based on a poem by Petrarch in which the contrasting pitches suggested the changeable nature of the poem.

The mournful "Riconoscenza" was given an excellent interpretation as violinist Fujiko Imajishi next played with focus and precision, her sforzando bowing and precise articulation, impressive.

"Steep Steps", as interpreted by Virgil Blackwell on bass clarinet, was to lead us through several melodic episodes and end with a single note hanging.

Elliott Carter's music distinguishes itself in its endings, for instead of a dramatic crash and bang, his pieces stop smoothly, or the last phrase is softly ironic, or there is a single note left hanging in the air. His pieces end subtly, and with individuality.

Elliot Carter

What became abundantly clear this evening was that New York-born Elliott Carter is both an American and a cosmopolitan composer, for his stated musical roots are in Stravinsky and Charles Ives.

He spoke firmly about his music as a reflection of his belief in an equality of expression for people; and an honoring of the rights of an individual.

Mr. Carter then spoke to us about a piano concerto in which the individual (the piano) competes with the group (the orchestra) to be heard.

He smiled and said, "Of course, the piano wins."

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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