- Holiday Overture, for orchestra
- Symphony No.1
- Piano Concerto
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.