on 15 January 2014
Is this the end of Bridge's Elliott Carter series? Anyway it makes a appropriate final tribute: three early songs from the '40s, in the style Carter would later call "foresquare", the Piano Concerto from his heroic, magmatic "middle period", and a few short works he wrote in his late 90's (!) and at 101 (!!).
I can't say much interesting about the early songs-- I don't cotton much to early Carter, and his songs are my least favourite stream of his output. This is personal. Don't take it seriously. The last works are amazing products for a man of that age, but taken on their own, these pieces of "crystallized Carter", brief and airless, are of limited interest.
The reason to buy this album is the Piano Concerto, which despite running only about 20 minutes is in effect a HUGE and glorious arc of music, dense, intricate, urgent. It has been recorded several times by Ursula Oppens, who plays the piano part like streaks of lightning -- steely-fingered, roaring all the way; a completely valid approach to the piece. In the recording here, made originally for radio broadcast, Charles Rosen gives a more nuanced performance, not slamming against the orchestra as much as weaving into it. Sound quality is dandy, by the way.
Have you seen those unfinished Michelangelo statues that look like titans trying to tear blocks of stone off their heads? That's Carter's Piano Concerto. That's High Modernism. Bless the stuff-- may it blow post-modern irony off the cultural map.