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100th Anniversary Release

Aitken; New Music Concerts Ensemble , Carter Elliott Audio CD

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Mosaïque - Dialogues - Scrivo In Vento - Gra - Enchanted Preludes - Steep Steps - Figment n°1 & n°2 - Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi - Rhapsodic Musings / New Music Concerts Ensemble - Robert Aitken, direction + 1 DVD

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elliot Carter is celebrating his 100th birthday still actively composing. Naxos has released this CD with companion DVD as part Dec 8 2008
By R. Rockwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Elliot Carter is celebrating his 100th birthday still actively composing. Naxos has released this CD with companion DVD as part of the celebration. As usual with Naxos the extensive giving a background of the importance of Elliot Cater in the classical music world and notes on the compositions by the composer. These are all chamber compositions. Mosaic is for solo harp and seven different instruments. It is written in the style of short mosaic tiles and is quite joyful. Servito im Vento is based on a poem by Petrarch and is quite sad for solo flute, Gra which means play in polish for solo clarinet was written for Lutoslawski to celebrate his birthday was very well performed. My personal favorite Enchanted Preludes for flute and cello which explores the differences between the two instruments is very beautiful especially at the end where the solo cello part.
Figment no, 1 for solo cello is also quite enchanting based on a single musical idea extended over six minutes. Riconoscenza for violin solo was written for the birthday of a fellow composer and it begins with joyous pizzacatos and ends on a more solemn note. Rhapsodic musings inspired by the violinist who premiered many of his works with the Julliard Quartet is the shortest piece may be the most beautiful and challenging.
Dialogues is a conversation between solo piano and eighteen different instruments is constantly changing having almost orchestral flavor at times

I was glad for the addition of the DVD which shows two pieces in live performance which helped me appreciate the challenging works even more. Elliot Carter is one of my favorite composers; it was nice to see works unfamiliar to me so well played by the New Music Concerts Ensemble. Please excuse typo I have a neuralgic disease.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elliott Carter at 100 Jan. 28 2009
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The American composer Eliott Carter (b. 1908) celebrated his 100th birthday this past December. In his youth, Carter knew Charles Ives, who predicted great things for the young man. In his modernistic, difficult and bristling scores written over a period of 60 years, Carter has fulfilled Ives's hopes. Carter has composed actively well into his 90s and has achieved a flourishing in his old age. In this respect he is similar to another figure in American music, the much less well-known Leo Ornstein (1893 -- 2002) who continued composing in obscurity well into his 90s.

To celebrate Carter's 100th birthday, Naxos released two CDs of his music in 2008 as part of its "American Classics" series. The first CD consisted of Carter's first and fifth string quartets, while this CD, released on his birthday, December 11, 2008, includes 10 varied works for solo instruments, small ensembles, and chamber orchestra. The music dates from 1988, when Carter was 80, to 2005, when he was 97. The highly-regarded New Music Concerts Ensemble of Toronto under its director Robert Aitken introduce the listener to this difficult music. Aitken has been a long time friend of Carter and a champion of his music. In this CD he also performs as a flutist.

Of the ten works presented, the two most recent works are the most substantial in terms of length and instrumentation. Carter's "Mosaic" dates from 2005. It is scored "for solo harp and seven instruments". This work features virtuosic writing for the harp, performed here by Toronto harpist Erica Goodman. The music includes alternating fragmentary passages for the harp and the remaining instruments, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and bass. The climax of the work is a lengthy passage of glissandos and arpeggios for the harp. The work features sudden changes in mood and timbre but manages to create a sense of unity

The other extended work is "Dialogues", composed in 2004 and scored for piano and a chamber orchestra of eighteen instruments. David Swan of Toronto performs the difficult piano part. This work is almost a chamber concerto in a single movement in which the piano writing is juxtaposed against the orchestral ensemble or against individual instruments. As in traditional concertos, at times the pianist and orchestra seem to duel against each other while at other moments they play in unity. The work grows out of a small, short rhythmic theme and goes through many moods, from virtuosic and flamboyant to quietly reflective.

Several works on this CD were composed for individual instruments. These works have contrapuntal feel, as Carter makes full use of the range and varied tonal quality of each instrument, giving the sense of multiple voices. Carter wrote "Srivo in Vento" for Aitken in 2001, based on a poem of Petrarch. This work contrasts the low, breathy tones of the flute with its piercing upper register, capturing the contrasts found in Petrarch's poem. The short works "Gra" (1993) and "Steep Steps" (2001) were written for clarinet and bass clarinet. Here as well, Carter emphasizes the range of the instruments' registers, as Carter takes short, fragmentary phrases and develops them as the music moves back in forth between the deep voice of the clarinet and its upper ranges.

Besides these three works for solo winds, this CD includes four works for solo strings. "Figment No. 1" (1994) and "Figment No. 2" (2001) are for solo cello, played by David Hetherington. In their multiple voices, these modernistic works reminded me of Bach's cello suites. The 1994 work develops multiple musical moods and figures from a single idea while the second "Figment" is subtitled "Remembering Mr. Ives" and quotes themes from Carter's great mentor.

The two works on the CD for solo violin, "Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi" (1984) and "Rhapsodic Musings" (1999)are played by Fujiko Imajishi. Written for the Italian composer Petrassi. the former work contrasts piercingly high figures in the violin, with slower passages in its lower register and with pizzacato playing. Carter composed the latter work for Robert Mann of the Juilliard String Quartet. This work of just over three minutes is highly intense and virtuosic, filled with double stops and contrasting musical themes which, Carter writes, mirror the human and artistic qualities of Robert Mann.

The earliest work on this CD, "Enchanted Preludes" (1988)
is scored for flute and cello. Robert Aitken and David Hetherington combine on this work which showcases the differences between the two instruments, much as the solo works focused on the different qualities of each individual instrument. The work is based upon the text of a poem by the American poet Wallace Stevens -- Carter is a learned individual quite beyond his compositional accomplishments -- in which Stevens wrote: "Time is the hooded enemy,/The inimical music, the enchanted space/In which the enchanted preludes have their place."

This CD also includes a bonus DVD featuring an interview between Carter and Aitken and live performances of "Mosaic" -- filmed in a way which captures the shifting quality of the score -- and "Dialogues" which complement the readings on the CD. Adventurous listeners wanting to explore the works of this great modern American composer will enjoy this CD.

Robin Friedman
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DVD Missing March 24 2009
By frankp93 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Fortunately the CD contains effective performances and is alone worth the price. I hoped at first it might be a hybrid disk, but no luck. Perhaps the initial release included the separate DVD while later "pressings" do not. Beware if you're buying strictly for the documentary.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly variable in quality, but some good moments Dec 4 2009
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This Naxos release from 2008 celebrated Elliott Carter's 100th birthday. Early pressings included a DVD, but if you can't get one, then you aren't missing out on much as it includes only a couple of performances in TV-quality video and unimpressive sound. In this review I'll discuss only the audio CD. The pieces here are performed by various American and Canadian musicians and the soloists are Erica Goodman on harp, David Swan on piano, David Hetherington on cello, Robert Aiken on flute, Virgil Blackwell on bass clarinet and Max Christie on clarinet.

The standout pieces are two of Carter's post-millennial concertos, which in contrast to the brash, angry-sounding works of the 1960s generally feature the soloist conversing with successive instruments or duos instead of everyone at once. Although many 20th century composers have written music that seeks to overturn the stereotype of the harp as a Romantic instrument played by gentle ladies, "Mosaic" (2004) may still shock you with the aggressiveness of its solo part. "Dialogues" for piano and ensemble (2003) is a convival work, though the performance here is of such much lesser quality than that by Nicholas Hodges and the London Sinfonietta on a Bridge disc, as Robert Aiken's conducting is so clunky compared to Oliver Knussen.

The remaining pieces on the disc are short works for solo instruments or duos. Carter has written a large number of these pieces, but these are generally unmemorable. "Rhapsodic Musings" (2001) and "Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi" (1984), both for solo violin are some of the rare triumphs. I've always thought this pieces just as strong an exploration of the possibilities of the instrument matched to a fine musical argument as Bach's sonatas for solo violin. Fujiko Imajishi's performance here is quite fine, but I find myself turning more often to that by Thomas Zehetmair on an ECM disc which also includes two other such pieces, Carter having put them together into a suite called "4 Lauds". "Figment" for solo cello (1994) is also quite enjoyable, a devilishly difficult piece to perform that sometimes reaches orchestral dimensions. Hetherington successfully negotiates this devilishly difficult pieces, but this recording is too closely miked for my taste and I prefer the sonics on a Naive disc where Rohan de Saram appears.

The other pieces aren't at the same quality. "Enchanted Preludes" for flute and cello (1988) is a forgettable, rather unloving dialogue. "Steep Steps" for bass clarinet (2001) meanders. "Scrivo in Vento" for flute solo (1991) is a slow piece with sudden changes of register, while "Gra" for clarinet (1994) is fast and whimsical. These all might serve well in a recital where a young performer wants to show off his talents, but they seem pretty lightweight to this home listener. Robert Aiken was the dedicatee of the pieces here for flute, so perhaps this disc might still have some attraction.

All in all, Carter's music has been better or better-performed elsewhere. Still, it's Naxos, so it's an affordable risk.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No DVD Nov. 23 2009
By Edward Irving - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Well, my cd came with no dvd. The case say`s there is a dvd enclosed, I dont find it. Maybe there is some kind of trick to it...

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