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Honoring Elliott Carter

WWD caught up with leading musicians who have worked with the composer to find out about his biggest contributions in the music world.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Scoop issue 11/24/2008

In celebration of Elliott Carter’s 100th birthday next month, WWD caught up with leading musicians who have worked with the composer to find out about his biggest contributions in the music world.  A general consensus was made — playing Carter’s complex and virtuosic compositions not only challenged them musically, but made them better musicians since it allowed them to develop their technical skills. Here’s what they had to share:


“He’s a true visionary and somebody who has worked on his craft for a whole lifetime. He’s followed his vision of music regardless of where it led him. To be able to master what he does, you will expand your own technical ability in not only playing your instrument, but also rhythmically in the sense of what you’re doing in relation to others even though it could seem unrelated. He takes tremendous care in listening to people who spend time learning his works and informs them what his vision is, what he hears and wants you to hear. He’ll even go as far as correcting his dynamics scheme on the manuscript if he thinks it makes things clearer for the performer.” — Samuel Rhodes, violist of The Juilliard String Quartet

“His music has great originality and a sense of color and wonderfully developed orchestration, especially in his late works. I always gave people an overdose of Elliott back in Chicago because I saw it as my privilege, not my duty, to play at least one new work every season.” — Daniel Barenboim, conductor and pianist

“His music uses such a degree of vital invention from the wonderful spun out vocal lines to the rhythmic and harmonic elements that work together from the beginning to the end.” — James Levine, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and The Metropolitan Opera

“He’s a true American national treasure and his career and life is something this country should be proud of. The pieces help you expand your ability to be more versatile and you find yourself more technically capable as a musician in the long run having gone through that process” — Charles Neidich, clarinetist

“His music is a new language — so much of what he’s about is visceral intangibles about life.” — Doug Fitch, opera director and visual artist

“Elliott is a master of counterpoint and the fact that his music is intellectually substantial doesn’t in any way lessen the music, but instead heightens the emotional impact.” — Ellen Highstein, director of the Tanglewood Music Center

“He embodies music of our time which is both modern and humane; instruments are like human beings who are talking and expressing all kinds of things and he’s able to do it in a way that hasn’t been done before.” — Ursula Oppens, pianist

“There are multiple things happening at different rates of time while the music goes on, which makes it harder to play and listen to, but when you get the hang of it, it becomes more fascinating than any other composer today.” — Charles Rosen, pianist

“A really good piece of Elliott is like a poem which when you first read it, it might seem obscure but it can become a rich companion forever yielding a deeper insight into life.” — David Robertson, music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra


See Monday's issue of WWDScoop for the full article.

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