Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two Controversies and a Conversation

Many thanks to BH to scoring me a ticket for the premiere of Elliott Carter's Two Controversies and a Conversation June 9 at Symphony Space in New York City. The piece is an expansion of Carter's Conversations, a small double concerto for piano, percussion and chamber orchestra first played in June 2011 at the Aldeburgh Festival. The two brief "controversies" were added at the suggestion of Oliver Knussen, who conducted the premiere of Conversations. On first hearing, I'm not sure what they added to the work, since they went by rather fast. They're both fairly brief and declamatory, and I liked Conversations well enough on its own. Still, the performance was memorable. Colin Currie was the percussion soloist, as he was at Aldeburgh, and the young pianist Huebner was more than an adequate substitute for Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the other soloist for whom Conversations was written. I got to speak to Huebner at intermission. (BH seemed to know absolutely everyone in the hall that night, and he introduced me to at least half of them.) He said the piece was fun to play and not nearly so hairy as the piano music from Carter's heroic period.

Mr. Carter was there, too, in a wheelchair, and was interviewed before the performance by Magnus Lindberg. He (Carter) was pretty funny about the practical problems of writing for percussion, which he said was largely a matter of having "the poor guy" run around too much. Ultimately, he said, he just had to stop thinking about it.

The rest of the program was also very strong. My mind began to wander during Boulez' ...explosante-fixe..., but I was quite taken with Nachlese Vb: Liederzyklus, for soprano and chamber orchestra, by the Swiss composer Michael Jarrell, whom I had not heard of before.

Read Steve Smith’s review.

Then listen to the concert, courtesy of WQXR.

I've tried embedding it, but it doesn't seem to want to play. Maybe you'll have better luck:

Sorry I've been offline so long. Been rather overwhelmed at work, and haven't had much focus the rest of the time. I'm leading exactly the kind of life my parents' envisioned for me, I think — long hours, low pay, no recognition, the kind of Darwinian struggle that teaches you that life is unfair and you had better dammed well pull yourself up by your bootstraps because if you don't no one else is going to and there's nothing to look forward to once the honeymoon is over and the only available comforts are religion and drink.

Yes, Adam and Betty, you were right. Happy now?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

EC dreams

Had the oddest dream this morning. I was giving a lecture on Elliott Carter to a group of senior citizens. What made it strange is that what I was saying actually made sense: usually in my dreams, the talk is gibberish, but I can remember everything I said in this one - all about EC's birth, education, study with Boulanger, relationship with Charles Ives, etc. But there was a DVD playing on a flat-screen TV in the front of the room, and as the lecture went on, it got louder and louder, playing a bombastic symphony that  sounded to me a lot like  Shostakovich. Meanwhile, workmen were filling the classroom with folding chairs and other

furniture. Finally, they brought in a long armoire that blocked my view of the old people entirely. I couldn't be heard over the TV, the scraping of the chairs and all the talking, and I gave up. I stopped shouting, and, leaning back against the window sill, I said, "I'm not going to waste my voice."

The meaning seems pretty clear.

Yesterday I received in the mail Bridget Kibbey's CD Love Is Come Again which contains her reading of Carter's harp solo, "Bariolage." It's beautiful recording, both perfromance and sound quality.