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Elliott Carter

December 11, 1908 - November 5, 2012
born in New York, NY, composed during the Contemporary period
One of the most significant post-World War II American composers, Elliott Carter remained a forceful and eloquent voice into his tenth decade. From an early, quasi-neo-Classical style, Carter forged his own complex, dramatically oriented adaptation of serial methods.

His initial education was at the Horace Mann School and at Harvard, where he obtained a B.A. in English, in 1930; two years later, he got his M.A. in Music, after studies with Walter Piston and Gustav Holst. He also received early encouragement from Charles Ives. From Harvard, he went to Paris, studying at the Ecole Normale de Musique and taking private lessons with Nadia Boulanger. Carter had an interest in modern music almost from the beginning (in fact, he once said that he took his degrees at Harvard so he could be near the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which under Serge Koussevitzky's direction was performing a broad range of contemporary compositions at the time). But he also sang in a madrigal group and conducted choral concerts in Paris, and pursued interests in mathematics, literature, and languages.

After his return to the U.S., he served as the musical director of the Ballet Caravan from 1937 to 1939. From 1940 on, Carter held an impressive variety of teaching posts at, among others, St. John's College, Annapolis (1940-1942); the Peabody Conservatory (1946-1948); Columbia University (1948-1950); Queen's College, New York (1955-1956); Yale University (1960-1962); the American Academy in Rome (1963 and 1967); and the Juilliard School (1972). Carter was also the recipient of many honors and awards, including honorary doctorates from almost a dozen universities, many foundation grants, a Prix de Rome, two Guggenheim fellowships, and Pulitzer Prizes for his second (1960) and third (1973) string quartets.

His ballet Pocahontas, written for the Ballet Caravan, and the Holiday Overture (1944) are representative of Carter's early style, a fusion of Igor Stravinsky's neo-Classicism and the American populism of Aaron Copland. In the mid-'40s, however, Carter decided that the style he had employed to that point avoided some important modes of expression. Subsequent works, such as the 1946 Piano Sonata and the 1948 Cello Sonata, employ more dissonance and rhythmic complexity. Carter developed his notion of "metrical modulation," in which one tempo leads gradually to another through changing the note values in different voices of the ensemble. One starts to hear this process in the String Quartet No. 1 (1951), and colorful works like the Variations for Orchestra (1954-1955), the Double Concerto (1961) and the Quartet No. 2 develop those ideas further. Carter also occasionally developed dramatic scenarios for his compositions. The Quartet No. 3, for example, pits two duos (violin/viola and violin/cello) against one another as they play in different tempos and rhythms; Claus Adam of the Juilliard Quartet, which premiered the work, called it the most difficult work the quartet had ever played.

Carter went on to write a total of five quartets, along with a variety of symphonic works, concertos, chamber and solo pieces and, in the late '70s and early '80s, a handful of vocal works. He continued to be productive: Carter's Symphonia: sum fluxae pretium spei (1993-1996), which he completed at the age of 88, was received with great enthusiasm. Carter astounded the music world by creating his first opera, What Next? (1998), at the age of 90. Elliott Carter died at his home in Greenwich Village on November 5, 2012; he was 103 years old. ~ Chris Morrison, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Elliott Carter: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5

Title: String Quartet No. 1

1. String Quartet No. 1: Fantasia Maestoso

2. String Quartet No. 1: Allegro Scorrevole

3. String Quartet No. 1: II. Allegro Scorrevole

4. String Quartet No. 1: Adagio

5. String Quartet No. 1: Variations

Title: String Quartet No. 5

6. String Quartet No. 5: Introduction

7. String Quartet No. 5: Giocoso

8. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude I

9. String Quartet No. 5: Lento Espressivo

10. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude II

11. String Quartet No. 5: Presto Scorrevole

12. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude III

13. String Quartet No. 5: Allegro Energico

14. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude IV

15. String Quartet No. 5: Adagio Sereno

16. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude V

17. String Quartet No. 5: Capriccioso

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Track List: Elliott Carter: String Quartets Nos.1-4 / Elegy

x

Track List: Elliott Carter: Symphony No. 1; Piano Concerto

Title: Holiday Overture, for orchestra

1. Holiday Overture, for orchestra: Holiday Overture

Title: Symphony No.1

2. Symphony No.1: I. Moderately, Wistfully

3. Symphony No.1: II. Slowly, Gravely

4. Symphony No.1: III. Vivaciously

Title: Piano Concerto

5. Piano Concerto: I

6. Piano Concerto: II

x

Track List: The Music of Elliott Carter Vol. 7; Boston Concerto, Cello Concerto, ASKO Concerto, Dialogues

Title: Dialogues, for piano & chamber orchestra

1. Dialogues, for piano & chamber orchestra: Dialogues

Title: Boston Concerto, for orchestra

2. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: I. Allegro Staccatissimo

3. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: II. Lento, Teneramente

4. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: III. Tempo Primo

5. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: IV. Meno Mosso

6. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: V. Piu Mosso, Tempo Primo

7. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: VI. Meno Mosso

8. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: VII. Tempo Primo

9. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: VIII. Lento, Sostenuto

10. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: IX. Tempo Primo

11. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: X. Piu Mosso

12. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: XI. Tempo Primo

13. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: XII. Maestoso - Molto Espr.

14. Boston Concerto, for orchestra: XIII. Tempo Primo

Title: Cello Concerto

15. Cello Concerto: I. Drammatico

16. Cello Concerto: II. Allegro Appassionato

17. Cello Concerto: III. Giocoso

18. Cello Concerto: IV. Lento

19. Cello Concerto: V. Maestoso

20. Cello Concerto: VI. Tranquillo

21. Cello Concerto: VII. Allegro Fantastico

Title: Asko Concerto, for orchestra

22. Asko Concerto, for orchestra: ASKO Concerto

x

Track List: The Music of Elliott Carter, Volume Five - Nine Compositions (1994-2002)

Title: Steep Steps, for clarinet

1. Steep Steps, for clarinet: Steep Steps

Title: Diversions (2), for piano

2. Diversions (2), for piano: I. Diversion No. 1

3. Diversions (2), for piano: II. Diversion No. 2

Title: Oboe Quartet, for oboe & string trio

4. Oboe Quartet, for oboe & string trio: Oboe Quartet

Title: Figment II, for cello

5. Figment II, for cello: Figment No. 2 (Remembering Mr. Ives)

Title: Au Quai, for bassoon & viola

6. Au Quai, for bassoon & viola: Au Quai

Title: Of Challenge and of Love, song cycle for soprano & piano

7. Of Challenge and of Love, song cycle for soprano & piano: I. High On Our Tower

8. Of Challenge and of Love, song cycle for soprano & piano: II. Under The Dome

9. Of Challenge and of Love, song cycle for soprano & piano: III. Am Klavier

10. Of Challenge and of Love, song cycle for soprano & piano: IV. Quatrains From Harp Lake

11. Of Challenge and of Love, song cycle for soprano & piano: V. End Of A Chapter

Title: Figment, for cello

12. Figment, for cello: Figment No. 1

Title: Retrouvailles, for piano

13. Retrouvailles, for piano: Retrouvailles

Title: Hiyoku, for 2 clarinets

14. Hiyoku, for 2 clarinets: Hiyoku

Comments

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Carter is among a small cadre of great 20th century American Composers.
It is a crime that the media as well as concert artists don't play his great music more often. The same can be said of the music of Bartok.
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Absolutely does it for me .... Wakes my senses each and every time. (Cee Rex)
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I suspect many people here think of Carter as sedate because their first exposure to his music might be to the First Symphony on Pandora. If so, it'll be fun to know what they think when they hear Carter's mature style, which is anything but sedate or easy!
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Elliot Carter's music is in a class by itself. He at once provides deeply passionate and expressive lines while constructing an architecture of pitches, rhythms, and registers that leaves those of us to whom music is more than simply "nice sounds" with our heads spinning because he's capable of juggling so many things at once. A unique and valuable part of America's music history. The DEAN of American composers!
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Sedative?
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stimulating and nicely sedative.... .
Report as inappropriate
Moving and magical

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