Elliott Carter: Late Works (CD)

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Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Knussen

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Colin Currie (percussion), Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Knussen (conductor)

An impressive cast of artists are joining together in this Ondine recording dedicated to the late works by iconic American composer Elliott Carter (1908–2012). The album includes five premiere recordings, including Carter’s final work Epigrams (2012) for piano trio, featuring Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Isabelle Faust and Jean-Guihen Queyras. The album also features percussionist Colin Currie joined together with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oliver Knussen.

The earliest work included in this album, Dialogues, dates from 2003. It is a work for piano and orchestra composed of short, clearly articulated phrases. Carter wrote a sequel to the work, Dialogues II (2010), for Daniel Barenboim’s 70th birthday. Soundings (2005) was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for its Music Director at the time, Daniel Barenboim. The piece’s ten sections alternate between solo instruments (or small groups) and ensemble tutti, somewhat like a concerto grosso. Interventions (2007) – written for Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine and Daniel Barenboim – is a combination of piano concerto and orchestral tone poem. In 2010 Carter wrote Conversations, a mini-concerto for piano and percussion requested by Colin Currie. The following year, at the suggestion of Oliver Knussen, Carter added two brief prefatory movements and retitled the piece Two Controversies and a Conversation. Instances (2012), for chamber orchestra, is dedicated to Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony. Carter describes the piece as “a series of short interrelated episodes of varying character.” Epigrams (2012) is Carter’s last composition. “To amuse myself” (as he put it), he began writing very short pieces that could be completed quickly and later assembled into a suite. Carter, who studied Greek poetry as an undergraduate at Harvard, was clearly drawn to the concision, surprising turns, and wit of the literary genre to which his twelve short Epigrams allude.

“No one hearing the pieces on this disc is likely to doubt their technical finesse or expressive refinement: qualities that go a long way towards the defining of ‘lateness’ in artistic terms...[Aimard] tackles this always demanding pianism with alacrity and perception...There are unlikely to be any better discs of contemporary music this year.” Gramophone September 2017



Interventions (2007) for piano and orchestra

Dialogues (2003) for piano and chamber orchestra

Dialogues II (2010) for piano and chamber orchestra

Soundings (2005) for orchestra

Two Controversies and a Conversation (2011) for piano, percussion and chamber orchestra

Instances (2012) for chamber orchestra

Epigrams (2012) for piano trio