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Carter: Piano Concerto / Symphony No. 1 / Holiday Overture
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Carter: Piano Concerto / Symphony No. 1 / Holiday Overture

1 Mar 2004 | Format: MP3

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 1 Mar 2004
  • Label: Naxos
  • Copyright: (C) 2004 Naxos
  • Total Length: 1:02:00
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001LYPV8A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223,131 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By maximus TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 May 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
These are interesting works but not to my taste in their entirety. I bought it because it seemed good value, which it is, but I realised I probably would not like Carter's music much beyond his works in the 1950s after hearing this album. The first two works on the CD are very good - similarities with Hindemith and Arnold to some extent. But the Piano concerto is just too dissonant for me - I like modern classical music but this is a bit too dissonant and difficult to "get" for my tastes anyway. Other enthusiasts of 20th century classical music might like it though.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By DR on 2 Jan 2013
Format: Audio CD
This is the first time I have listened to Carter. Really enjoyed this, and in particular the piano concerto. will be looking for more of his work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An Introduction to Elliott Carter 7 July 2005
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This CD, part of the Naxos "American Classics" series will serve as a good introduction to the music of Elliott Carter (b. 1908) one of the most prominent and difficult of modern American composers.

As an adolescent, Carter met the great American composer Charles Ives who encouraged the fledgling composer. But Carter evolved as a composer very slowly and did not develop his own unique voice until the early 1950s. He has continued to compose and to develop well into his 90s.

This budget-priced CD with the late Kenneth Schermerhorn (d. April 18,2005) conducting the Nashville Symphony Orchestra allows a rare opportunity for the listener to explore Carter's development by presenting two early works together with Carter's difficult piano concerto, composed in 1964-1965.

The two early works are the short Holiday Overture (1944, revised in 1961) and the Symphony No. 1 (1942, revised 1954). These works are tonal and accessible -- perhaps excessively conservative even for their time. They show the influence of Aaron Copland and of an early Charles Ives without the fireworks.

The Holiday Overture was composed in 1944. It is a fanfare celebrating the liberation of France in WW II. It is uptempo, brassy, and uplifting with strong rhythm and a sense of optimisim. Aaron Copland, who greatly admired Carter's later, difficult scores, remarked tounge-in-cheek late in his life that the Holiday Overture was "another difficult piece by Carter."

The Symphony No. 1 is a quiet, pastoral piece somewhat in the manner of Ives's second symphony. It is in three movements and features nicely balanced writing between the strings and the winds and shifting rhythms that became a later characteristic of Carter's music.

I found the Holiday Overture and the Symphony pleasant if somewhat bland. But in the hearing them, I understood that Carter had not yet found his musical voice which he developed only in 1951 with his first string quartet. The piano concerto, dedicated to Igor Stravinsky, is a difficult bristling modern composition, atonal and dissonant in style with shifting complex rhythms and the many musical voices frequently working at cross-purposes with each other. Yet, with all its difficulty, this is the type of music that made, and justly so, Carter's reputation. The two early pieces heard on this CD have value primarily as a foil to this later work. With the development of his modernist style, Carter played to his strengths and wrote music that was uniquely his own.

The piano concerto is in two movements of approximately equal length. The piano part is juxtaposed not only against the orchestra, as in a traditional concerto, but in a small concertante ensemble consisting, according to the informative liner notes, of flute, English horn, bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Each of these instruments has short solo or ensemble passages in which it plays with the orchestra. The first movement opens with a piano solo followed by various combinations of the piano and the concertante group with the orchestra in the background. In the second movement, I think, the procedure is reversed with the orchestra playing a dominant role early in the movement and developing it as the movement progresses until the concertante group and the piano take over at the quiet close of the piece. The lines in the piece are generally short with the various instruments playing against each other. The most sustained passages are in the loud orchestral outbursts in the second movement. Rhythmic shifts are frequent and the music is atonal. This is a difficult, challenging piece, but I found it rewarding. Mark Wait, Dean and Professor of Music at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, plays admirably this extraordinarily difficult piano music.

This concerto is tough, uncompromising and bristling modern music but it is full of emotional power. At a time when he had already reached mid-life, Carter saw the need to channel his talents in a new direction and to leave the rather conventional paths his music had followed in his early years. His path was full of risk and uncertainty. But he has produced music that is modern, unique, and his own.

This CD -- in the contrast between the two early works and the later piano concerto -- reminded me of the difference between following convention and striking out for oneself. Carter certainly made the right choice when he pursued the latter course.

Robin Friedman
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Nashville Symphony does it again 8 Dec 2004
By CD Maniac - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Nashville Symphony releases another outstanding disc (two 2005 Grammy nominations--including album of the year)! Amazon should really have put the name of the orchestra in the main heading for this listing, as they are becoming more and more prominent--they are the most recorded orchestra in America in the last 5 years, as well as having the most CD sales of any American orchestra.

Kenneth Schermerhorn delivers solid performances of these rarely recorded works from Carter's early and later periods. The Symphony and Holiday Overture are from his early tonal period, and really deserve to be played more often. (This is only the second recording of the Holiday Overture.)

The fiendishly difficult Piano Concerto is from Carter's later period, with all of his trademark metric modulations and atonality. The real fascination here is listening to soloist Mark Wait (up for a Grammy) mastering the unbelievably difficult solo part (how many piano soloists would be willing to spend the amount of time needed to play this work?).

All the accolades and honors are well deserved.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Carter from Copland to Carter and from populism to avant-garde, in readings that lack an element of rhythmic dynamism 14 Oct 2013
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Naxos and Kenneth Schermerhon bring here together early and "mature" Carter or Carter become himself, and going from one to the other is jarring. Carter returned to the US in 1935 from his three years of studying in France with Nadia Boulanger, and discovered that American music during the Depression had "taken a new turn, toward a kind of populism which became the dominating tone of the entire musical life". So his Symphony No. 1 was written, in 1942, "in a deliberately restricted idiom - that is, an effort to produce [a work] that meant something to me as music and yet might, I hoped, be understandable to the general music public I was trying to reach..." (from the liner notes of the competing recording on CRI, Symphony 1 / Fire & Earth & Water & Air). In view of Carter's later stylistic evolution, I'm not sure what the Symphony meant to him as music (but certainly he didn't withdraw it from his catalog and destroyed it, as he did with most of his early compositions), but it sounds very much like the symphonies Copland or Harris composed in the same years. Incidentally, the Symphony was titled from the outset "Symphony No. 1"; "Symphony No. 2" never materialized. The closest Carter came was with his "Symphony of Three Orchestras" (1977, Symphony of 3 Orchestras) and "Symphonia: sum fluxae pretium spei" (Elliott Carter: Symphonia: Sum Fluxae Pretium Spei (1993-96) / Clarinet Concerto (1996) (20/21 series) - Oliver Knussen). The Holiday-Overture was composed in 1944 to celebrate the liberation of Paris, and it won a competition that should have insured a premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but its music director Serge Koussevitzy, though a member of the jury, never programmed it. One wonders why. There is nothing frightening about the music, no more than anything by Copland or Harris, which Koussevitzy conducted and recorded (Koussevitzky Conducts American Music. It is a boisterous, upbeat overture that could be an alternate Finale to the Symphony. The liner notes set some store on Carter's later claim that the Overture was his first composition "to use consciously the notion of simultaneously contrasting layers of musical activity, which characterizes most of my more recent work", and elaborate on the contradiction between the composition's "measures of common time" (it s a 4/4 throughout in a single tempo, with one measure of 5/4 towards the end) and the music's rhythmic syncopations. But no: the Overture is syncopated, that's all. Although the music isn't jazzy, its rhythmic syncopations are rooted in jazz, but there is nothing revolutionary or even path-beckoning about that. It is only a common process to create excitement, and it does. It also makes the music very "American" (American composers hadn't invented syncopations of course, but the widespread use of them does give the music that kind of unmistakable flavor). And, yes, there are moments of multiple layers, with scurrying figurations over long note-values, and so what? Such processes existed since at least Bach. Likewise in the Symphony's outer movements, Carter favors a rhythmic writing that contradicts the regular pulse of the measure, but this is nothing proper to him, you find those processes in the scherzos or menuettos of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. Not that I wish to disparage Carter here, just point out that there is nothing difficult or avant-garde or even anticipating avant-garde here. The music may come as a shock to those used to mature Carter and hoping to hear a harbinger of it; it should please amateurs of the "populist" Copland.

The 1965 Piano Concerto inhabits an entirely different universe, far far away, and it is the universe of the uncompromising "avant-garde" of the sixties, when music wasn't "noise", in that it was organized according to very strict principles, but certainly sounded like noise to an unprepared public, in that it eschewed any notion of "melodic appeal" (the succession of pitches wasn't determined out of any search for "beauty" or "appeal" in music's time-honored sense) or "rhythmic excitement" and, unlike the music of Ligeti and Penderecki from those years, didn't play either on the seduction of non-melodic timbral and sonic atmospheres. I consider myself very trained to 20th-century contemporary music, yet Carter's Concerto, like most of Babbitt's music, sounds to me like a caricature of "contemporary music": lots of notes, lots of sonic events erupting at every corner, but they all could have been determined at random, I'm not sure one would hear the difference (in fact there's a recording of Bernstein "conducting" the New York Philharmonic in four improvisations, and it sounds very much like this kind of avant-garde, Bernstein Century - Music of Our Time: Ligeti / Feldman / Denisov / Schuller / Messiaen).

I have other recordings of the Piano Concerto, by Ursula Oppens under Michael Gielen (two different ones, with the Cincinnati Symphony, Elliot Carter: Piano Concerto/Variations for Orchestra and the German Southwest Radio, Carter: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra / Concerto for Orchestra / Three Occasions), but frankly I am not interested in doing any comparative listening and assessment, it would be too much of an ordeal for too little reward. Maybe some day in a distant future, if I come across a cheap-selling score.

In the earlier compositions Schermerhorn offers readings that are serviceable rather than outstanding. Naxos' sonics are more lush and comfortable than those of CRI for the American Composer's Orchestra under Paul Dunkel (on two different CDs, the one mentioned above and, for the Holiday-Overture, Holiday Overture / Ste From Pocahontas / Syringa), but they also provide less instrumental impact. It goes together with readings that are more ample, laid-back and leisurely than Dunkel's (compare Schermerhorn's 10:00 / 11:26 / 7:18 in the Symphony to Dunkel's 8:07 / 10:17 / 6:36), eliciting, in the Symphony's first movement, a mood that is gentle and pastoral rather than dynamic and high-strung. If you think that the Copland similitude is paramount to these works, then you may consider that Schermerhorn has a point there. If you consider that rhythmic dynamism is paramount to early Carter, then it is permissible to consider that Schermerhon offers a distorted view (as seductive as it may seem), and that Dunkel is preferable. I think the latter. There is less contemplation and majesty, more passion in Dunkel's more animated tempo in the slow movement. Heard on its own Schermerhorn's Finale might seem fine, but you haven't heard what "vivacious" is until you've heard Dunkel, and the same comment applies to the Holiday-Overure.

The CRI CDs aren't ideal, since they dispatch onto two CDs what would have made the perfect content of one and the ideal presentation of "Carter before Carter": the Symphony, the Overture and the 1939 Pocahontas-Suite, the earliest orchestral work Carter kept at his catalog. And with that, you'll get your share of "contemporary music", with Francis Thorne's Symphony No. 5 (a lush, powerful and at times very romantic piece) and Nicolas Roussakis very atmospheric and evocative "Fire and Earth and Water and Air", and Carter's "Carteresque" Syringa. So the more coherent, all-Carter Naxos CD remains serviceable. But be aware that is provides what is probably a distorted view of the Symphony, too pastoral and Coplandesque, not dynamic and propulsive enough.
8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A slice of authentic Americana 24 Jan 2006
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
If Elliott Carter is not America's greatest living composer, he is its greatest living statesman in classical music. This CD traverses a relatively slight period in the composer's nearly 100 years and uses the included compositions as bookends on the growing midsection of the composer.

Both the "Holiday Overture" and Symphony No. 1 were composed during World War II and later revised. Neither bears the authentic stamp of this composer and, rather, bears the voice of his mentor, Charles Ives, along with other Americans of the era.

The meatier symphony begins allegro marked "Moderately, wistfully" and includes echoes of Schuman, Piston and Copland. It closes its 10 minutes with an endearing clarinet solo. The central section, marked "Slowly, gravely" seems to me more a lento on woodwind and string themes. It closes "Vivaciously" with quite vivacious Coplandesque dotted timpani.

The Piano Concerto, which dates from the mid-1960s, is typical of American and European atonal music written in that era. If you've ever listened to the music from the 1971 film, "Planet of the Apes", or the early Warren Beatty feature film, "Mickey One", you have an idea what to expect.

I liken the piano concerto to the first half-dozen symphonies of the German composer Hans Werne Henze for their dense themes, loud clangs of orchestral dissonance, followed by extremely thin thematic material in the strings. It also reminds me of the underpinnings of Schoenberg's "Pierrot lunaire" which, with Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", is credited as being the first piece of "modern" music.

The CD is a worthwhile investment for collectors and listeners that want a slice of Carter going from nondescript to descript. I don't find the music exceptional and believe the amassed forces have done good but hardly outstanding work on this CD, which is up to Naxos' typical standard for sound and production values.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
i n t e r v a l i c b e a u t y ! 4 July 2010
By Local Gratitude 907 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
i n t e r v a l i c b e a u t y !
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