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Elliott Carter

(b. 1908) American composer


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(b NY, 1908).

Amer. composer. At 16 befriended by Ives, who took him to concerts of mus. by Varèse, Sessions, Ruggles, and Copland. Studied pf. at Cambridge, Mass. At Harvard Univ. 1926–32, studying with Piston and E. B. Hill and having lessons in 1931 from Holst. Continued studies at École Normale de Mus., Paris, and privately with Boulanger. On return to USA, mus. dir. Ballet Caravan 1936–40. Taught at Peabody Cons., Baltimore, 1946–8, Columbia Univ. 1948–50, Yale Univ. 1958–62. Worked in Rome and Berlin 1963–4. Prof. of mus., Cornell Univ. 1967–8. Pulitzer Prize 1960 (2nd str. qt.) and 1973 (3rd str. qt.). His music is uncompromising and challenging, its harsh brilliance enhanced by compelling intellectual qualities. Early works were neo‐classical in style but a new harmonic structure and treatment of rhythm became apparent in the Piano Sonata (1945–6). With the Cello Sonata (1948) he developed ‘metric modulation’ whereby a new tempo is established from development of a cross‐rhythm within the old tempo. The listener has a clear impression of the simultaneous existence of 2 tempos. The 4 str. qts. have been described as the most significant comps. in the medium since Bartók, and Stravinsky described the Double Conc. as ‘the first true American masterpiece’. His writings on many subjects were collected into one vol. (NY 1977). Prin. works:

opera:

What Next?

(1993–8).

ballets:

Pocahontas

(1937–9);

The Minotaur

(1947).

orch.:

Prelude, Fanfare, and Polka

(1938); Sym. No.1 (1942, rev. 1954);

Holiday Overture

(1944, rev. 1961);

Elegy

, str. (1952);

Variations

(1954–5);

Double Concerto

, hpd., pf., 2 chamber orchs. (1961); pf. conc. (1964–5); Conc. for Orch. (1968–9);

Symphony of 3 Orchestras

(1976–7);

Penthode for 5 Instrumental Quartets

(1984–5);

Three OccasionsA Celebration of Some 100 × 150 NotesRemembranceAnniversary

(1986–9): 1. (1986), 2. (1988), 3. (1989); ob. conc. (1986–7); vn. conc. (1990); cl. conc. (1996);

Symphonia: sum fluxae pretiam speiPartitaAdagio tenebrosoAllegro scorrevola

(1998, comprising (1992–3), (1995), and (1997);

Asko Conc.

, orch. ens. (1999–2000); vc. conc. (2000);

Boston Conc

. (2001–2);

Micomicón

(2002);

Dialogues

, pf., orch. (2003);

Fons juventatis

, orch. (2004);

Soundings

, orch. (2005);

3 Illusions

, orch. (2005); hn. conc. (2007).

voice & ens.:

Warble for Lilac Time

, high v., pf. or ens. (1943, rev. 1954);

A Mirror on Which to Dwell

, sop., ens. (1975);

Syringa

, mez., bass, gui., 10 performers (1978);

In Sleep, In Thunder

, ten., 14 players (1981);

Tempo e tempi

, sop., ob., cl., vn., vc. (1998–9).

choral:

Tarantella

, male ch., pf. (1936, arr. with orch. 1971);

To Music

, unacc. (1937);

Heart Not So Heavy as Mine

, unacc. (1938);

The Defense of Corinth

, spkr., male ch., pf. (1942);

The Harmony of Morning

, women's ch., small orch. (1944);

Musicians Wrestle Everywhere

, mixed ch., opt. str. (1945);

Emblems

, male ch., pf. (1947).

chamber music:

Canonic Suite

, 4 alto sax. (1939, rev. 1981; arr. for 4 cl. 1955–6);

Pastorale

, ca. (or va., or cl.), pf. (1940, arr. ca., mar., str. 1988);

Elegy

, va. or vc., pf. (1943, rev. 1961; arr. str. qt. 1946, str. 1952); ww. quintet (1948); vc. sonata (1948);

[...]

Subjects: Music.


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