Carter: Symphony No. 1, Piano Concerto

Carter: Symphony No. 1, Piano Concerto

by Kenneth Schermerhorn
     
 

Contradicting the stereotype of Elliott Carter as the most forbiddingly difficult of American composers, this disc reveals his youthful populist phase with two irresistibly exuberant works from the 1940s. Carter's Symphony No. 1 (1942) has a typically extroverted American sound, a lyrical slow movement evoking wide-open spaces, and a finale full of bustling energy;… See more details below

Overview

Contradicting the stereotype of Elliott Carter as the most forbiddingly difficult of American composers, this disc reveals his youthful populist phase with two irresistibly exuberant works from the 1940s. Carter's Symphony No. 1 (1942) has a typically extroverted American sound, a lyrical slow movement evoking wide-open spaces, and a finale full of bustling energy; comparisons with the music of Carter's slightly older contemporaries Aaron Copland and Walter Piston are inescapable. In a similar vein, the Holiday Overture (1944) makes a brilliant curtain-raiser, and Carter aficionados will also note the intricacies that pulse just beneath its jubilant surface. Still, as thoroughly enjoyable as these two works from the '40s are, Carter's most original innovations -- and his more challenging music -- were yet to come. Indeed, by the time he composed his Piano Concerto (1964-65), which rounds out this program, he was making his audiences work a bit harder. It's worth the effort, however; whether you appreciate the virtuosity of pianist Mark Wait in this recording, the dramatic antagonism between soloist and ensemble, the prismatic play with tone color and the suppleness of rhythm, or the sometimes dizzying complexity of the whole, this Concerto has much to offer the receptive listener. (And so does Carter's work of the four subsequent decades: In December 2004, he turns 96 and is still actively writing new music.) Showcasing two very different sides of Carter's output, this disc is a fitting tribute to the eminent composer, and all three compositions are attacked with gusto by the Nashville Symphony, which makes yet another deeply impressive contribution here to Naxos' invaluable American Classics series.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Before Elliott Carter developed his advanced theories and inimitable personal style in the 1950s, he was more closely identified with the American populist school of Copland, Piston, and Harris. The boisterous "Holiday Overture" (1944, rev. 1961) and the vigorously contrapuntal "Symphony No. 1" (1942, rev. 1954) are fine examples of his youthfully energetic and extroverted music, and listeners will find these works accessible for their open tonality and traditional structures. Less transparent and quite daunting in its complexity is the "Piano Concerto" (1964-1965), a characteristically layered work abounding with metric modulations, cycling pitch structures, and dramatic juxtapositions of material. This disc's presentation of Carter's different periods may be a little disorienting to newcomers, but a balanced portrait of the composer must show both his early interest in creating an American vernacular and his later development as a leading exponent of the avant-garde. Mark Wait's playing in the "Piano Concerto" is coherent and audible against the orchestra's dense textures, but he is not recorded with much depth or presence. The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, under Kenneth Schermerhorn, provides competent accompaniment behind Wait, but the ensemble seems much more enthusiastic in the first two works, which are well recorded.
Philadelphia Inquirer - David Patrick Stearns
The Nashville Symphony Orchestra gives solid performances amid the broad stylistic range this repertoire represents.... At the budget price it is an excellent introduction to one of America's greatest living composers.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/16/2004
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943915127
catalogNumber:
8559151
Rank:
358364

Tracks

  1. Holiday Overture, for orchestra  - Elliott Carter  - Childe Hassam  - Kenneth Schermerhorn  -  Nashville Symphony
  2. Symphony No.1  - Elliott Carter  - Childe Hassam  - Kenneth Schermerhorn  -  Nashville Symphony
  3. Piano Concerto  - Elliott Carter  - Childe Hassam  - Kenneth Schermerhorn  - Mark Wait  -  Nashville Symphony

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