Dialogues for piano and chamber orchestra
Nicolas Hodges (piano)
Fred Sherry (cello)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
ASKO Concerto recorded live [first performance] on 26 April 2000 in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam; other works recorded in BBC Studio 1, Maida Vale, London in January and April 2004
Reviewed by: Josh Meggitt
Reviewed: February 2006
CD No: BRIDGE 9184
Duration: 61 minutes
Much of the work of Elliot Carter has left me cold, but with the feeling that I am missing something. It’s a bit like trying to read literature in a language one cannot understand; all the right ingredients seem to be there – dense webs of sound written to methodological guidelines – yet ‘something’ appears to be lacking. That ‘something’ is far more in place in this release of some of his most recent compositions.
Volume Seven in Bridge Records’ Elliot Carter series embraces four works written between 2000 and 2003 (Carter, born 1908, is still composing!).
Dialogues (2003) for piano finds Nicolas Hodges in an engaging conversation, with the London Sinfonietta under Oliver Knussen, comprising bright piano colours offset beautifully, if dissonantly, by a chamber orchestra.
Boston Concerto (2002), for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, played here by the BBC Symphony, is a well-paced, carefully executed cascade of differing voices, the woodwinds making way for vigorous percussion lines interspersed with welcoming horn blasts.
Cello Concerto (2001) features some beautiful moments of mournful solo cello before deconstructing into typical Carter cacophony.
The single movement ASKO Concerto (2000), similarly complex, moves through various configurations of its sixteen players, resulting in various groupings of voices, patterns and resolutions.
The Elliott Carter of recent years appears a more refined although no less demanding composer, his ideas and arguments more clearly (at least for this reviewer) projected. Dedicated to the memory of his late wife Helen, this disc is more a celebration of her vitality than a melancholic album of loss; included in the booklet are a number of touching photographs of Elliott and Helen Carter. Filled to bursting with ideas, colours and angles, the music here has prompted me to return to Carter’s earlier work.
The performances are exemplary and the sound superb.