Elliott Carter Day

Nothing in ┬áparticular, just listening to Carter’s piano works (for some reason). Here’s mandatory clip (or two):


2 thoughts on “Elliott Carter Day

  1. ‘Centenaires’ is stunning, reminding one immediately of Debussy’s ‘Dr. Gradus ad Panassum’. Here’s Michelangeli, than whom no one of the 20th century was greater (or not very often):

    It is also like Debussy’s ‘Etude pour les Notes Repetees’, which is one of my least favourites, but in the Carter, he uses the most cunning device–not usually the same note repeated, but an extremely prestissimo 3-4 notes, chromatic neighbors in just a descending figure repeated several times, and then this is done many times; never thought of how it then has almost the same effect as a repeated note. Mr. Chen is excellent.

    I’m familiar with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and haven’t heard his recording of the Etudes. I think Jean-Yves Thibaudet is better, but some find him too showy. He’s very extroverted and does do those Liszt transcriptions of operas superbly, as well as the best you can get of the Ravel orchestral pieces (as ‘Menuet Antique’ or even ‘Tombeau’, which are never going to sound quite as beautiful as they do with the orchestra, but then Gould’s ‘Siegfried Idyll’ isn’t going to sound like Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra, or whatever it’s called, I’ve got the LP somewhere, either). I don’t see really any reason to do the ‘Tristan’ transcription or any of them with lots of tremolos which end up sounding like shit no matter how fastidious (and Thibaudet always is), but his recording of the Etudes is often truly great, as in ‘Les Arpeges Composes’, in which he plays the opening sextuplet-arpeggios as clearly-outlined melody, and only later starts the ‘whirring’ with the much more thickly populated ones, and that makes those latter make much more sense. I completely changed my view of this piece and performance of it from hearing his–it’s like he takes the opening sextuplets at half the tempo. This is one of the Etudes that almost everybody loves, is more accessible, but the Octaves, 6ths, les Agrements, and especially the last Rabelaisian ‘Les Accords’ are all masterpieces, not to mention even the 3rd and 4ths.

    The second piece is very fine, but not startling, as is ‘Centenaires’, which glitters like Boulez, but has more natural beauty, as it were, with those touches from Debussy’s sound-world. There are also interesting ‘long voicings’ in both pieces that are like the augmentations in Bach fugues. But ‘Centenaires’ is something special indeed, one of the most impressive pieces I’ve ever heard by Carter.

    Thanks so much for putting theses up.

    Michelangeli also has some marvelous Chopin. This ‘Dr. Gradus’ is not the warmest in the world, but Michelangeli’s elegance is not always going to do that. There was another one I found which was more warmly played, but the sound of the instrument had that old non-broken-in sound of old Baldwins. Let me see if I can find it again anyway….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwYBf0lPmkw

    Actually, on second hearing, he does quite a good and moving job, but you can almost hear that resistant tough action. Tough action is difficult enough to deal with on a bright-sounding piano, because if you work out on it long enough, your desire to keep hearing the sound will force your fingers to strengthen. This kind of piano is most unrewarding to play on, because even though he does a good job, the general sound has a weird muted quality. Sometimes when they’re really beaten in good, they become somewhat improved, but it isn’t like the best Steinway sound (even if it is one.) There’s NOTHING like getting a superb Steinway all to yourself and working the fairylike middle-sections of the Liszt Sonata. The passages sparkle and twinkle in D Major and you see your favourite ballet dancers in your mind–and, in fact, Sir Frederick Ashton did make ‘Marguerite and Armand’ for Nureyev and Fonteyn, although I didn’t know the Ashton when I was playing it; I always saw Patty McBride, whom I used to see a good deal at NYCBallet, and she’s the lightest dancer I’ve ever seen–once at Saratoga, where they do a summer season, I swore she levitated for an instant.

  2. Probably didn’t put enough spacing for the second like, it’s all there though, you can cut and paste.

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