I don't want the enthusastic review I posed yesterday to create the impression I'm completely, imbecilically uncritical when it comes to Elliott Carter's music. There was one piece on Thurday's program that puzzled me: Retracing III, for trumpet. This little fantasy is a transcription of the opening solo from "A Symphony of Three Orchestras" of 1976, with a few pauses added to make it less taxing on the lungs and lips. The original music was written for Gerard Schwartz, who was principal trumpet player of the New York Philharmonic at the time, and on the recording of the Symphony (with Boulez conducting), Schwartz plays with a stunning definition: every note, every phrase is crystal clear. I don't know if the problem Thursday night was with the original piece, the transcription, or Peter Evans's preformance, but the piece seemed, well, blurred. In any event, I was excited before it started, but somewhat deflated when it was over. It was a rare letdown in an exciting evening. (When he was through, Evans sat down to join the ensemble for the Double Trio, and from what I could hear, he was flawless.)
By contrast, Peter Kolkay's performance of Retracing, for bassoon, was a delight. Something about the acoustics of the Kaufmann Hall enhanced the instrument's inherent warmth. And it's a funny, intimate little piece that doesn't try for soaring grandeur.
I can Carter's brief solos becoming favorites of music students everywhere.