Monday, November 17, 2008

'Dangerous New Music': Philadelphia Treated To Two Major New Elliott Carter Classical Scores Yet Unprogrammed In Nation's Capital

"In an era that thinks music's job is to entertain, the most subversive composer alive might be Elliott Carter, whose 100th birthday is Dec. 11. As if to drive the point home, Orchestra 2001 and artistic director James Freeman stacked Saturday afternoon's program with two recent Carter works, which also apparently served to drive the audience away.

Whatever happened to the idea of curiosity as a core music-lover quality? The concert drew a pitifully small number of listeners to the Independence Seaport Museum - perhaps a few dozen, making it feel more like a rehearsal than a concert - to hear the important Philadelphia premieres of the Asko Concerto from 2000 and Dialogues from 2003. What is it about Carter that repels listeners? On first approach it has an arbitrary quality. And it's true that melody doesn't emerge in an easily recognized form.

Either you like the aesthetic or you don't - the minimally acerbic dissonances, his particularly recognizable choice of strange intervals, the alternating nocturnal and volcanic atmospheres. But despite knotty harmonic language, the logical structure always gives you a helping hand. Not to mention an eventful narrative.

Just consider the last five minutes of Asko: The music builds toward an arrival point, then dissolves into a decidedly spooky texture of harp tremolo and piccolo. The lower-register instruments work hard to thwart something else going on in the small ensemble. Small cabals resort to cheeky interjections. A bassoon solo grows so grotesque the piece has no choice but to end.

Pianist Emanuele Arciuli told the audience that the title of Dialogues was a paradox, since the piano and small orchestra spend the entire concerto basically not talking to each other. I'm not so sure. But this is a piece that jabs, stomps around, quietly gropes, asks some accusatory questions, and then slinks off to a defeated finish." ...

Peter Dobrin "Mixed memories for Orchestra 2001 audience" [Philadelphia Inquirer] November 17, 2008


Face Vessel

Made in South Carolina, United States

c. 1860-70

Attributed to the Thomas J. Davies Pottery, Edgefield district, South Carolina, c. 1862 - 1870

Glazed stoneware

7 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches (19 x 19.7 cm)

Gift of Edward Russell Jones, 1904

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Photo credit: (c) Philadelphia Museum of Art


Imagine an American Fine Arts Museum which did not deeply cherish American art ... Then imagine Sharon Rockefeller's Classical WETA-FM, so-called classical music 'public radio' in the Nation's Capital.


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