Monday, September 11, 2006

Review: Early and late Elliott Carter

CARTER: Piano Concerto / Symphony No 1 / Holiday Overture. Mark Wait, piano. Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Kenneth Schermerhorn, conductor. Naxos, 2004.

Most albums try to present a consistent program of similar music. This album has a really weird mix -- two tonal pieces which sound like Aaron Copland, along with the very modern, atonal piano concerto.

The symphony (1942) and overture (1944) is very early Carter, written in a style he later disparaged as "a masquerade in a bomb shelter."

Yeah, well, all I know is he wrote really good masquerade in a bomb shelter music. The symphony is shamelessly enjoyable, and I like the overture only a little less. The Nashville Symphony and Schermerhorn should be commended for excavating those early pieces and making them available.

The piano concerto (1965) is very modern, but the sounds are interesting and dramatic, if not melodic. It's been growing on me each time I listen to it.

Consumer alert: The album is available at The cheapest plan there is 40 tracks for $10. That works out to 25 cents a track. There are six tracks on this album, so you get a pretty good recording for $1.50.

Addendum: I've been listening to the piano concerto more and more, and I like it. It's like Stravinsky, with the melodies removed but the tone colors emphasized. I'm going to look for more of Carter's modernist work.

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