Friday, March 10, 2006

Elliott Carter Festival Day Three

Classes prevented me from catching much of today's Carter Symposium though I skidaddled in to catch John Roeder's dissertation on the "Autonomy, Dialogue and Concilliation in the Music of Elliott Carter". Just as much fun as it sounds, the 30 person room filled to capacity with the nerdiest of older music fans laughed at every joke about 0-4-7 pitch classes and metric modulation. It was a little over my head and I was saddedned to see I'd have to miss Paul Griffiths' presentation on working with the man to catch my ride. I did get to sit next to the Cosby sweatered Welshman (who looks like a more weedy Ludwig Wittgenstein), and noticed that he scowled at me pretty heavily (Britishness?) perhaps do to my painfully inappropriate school clothes in such a situation. Afterwards he seemed friendly and I forgot to ask him what it was like working with Tan Dun, composer of pieces for amplified origami.

Tonight however was the big event, at which the spry and vivacious 97 year old was present. A moving little presentation preceded the concert as Carter received his Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa and Effecta 8521 to the fifth power. He looked good and despite using a cane, moved with relative ease. We also received the promising news that he's working on a Horn Concerto and song cycle on Wallace Stevens for Levine at the moment.
The concert itself was an interesting combination of Carter's wonderful early choral works, along with those by some composers special to Carter such as Stravinsky and Petrassi (and opening with Ives' beautifully peculiar setting of Psalm 97). Before the intermission, Ursula Oppens came out and wrung hallucinatory drowiness fireworks from the piano in the simultaneously lethargic and prickly Night Fantasies.
The concert concluded with the austere Variations for orchestra and the joyful neo-classical Holiday Overture, bringing the evening full circle. From a row in front of me on the side of the stage the tiny but forceful little body stood up and joined the conductor in applauding the orchestra, a bright smile on his bright face.

During the intermission, a friend chided me to approach him as he was only a couple seats away. He sat with his cane and was engaging some young fans in a spirtied conversation. As they left I approached and shook his hand and asked him:
When are you going to get on that second opera!!?
He smiled and laughed and shook his head: One is enough! Trust me, one was enough!.
I would have loved to sit down with him for hours and hear his stories and talk with him about his incredible life but I decided to give the man a little time to himself.
Thank you for all the music Mr. Carter.
Oh, thank you!


Blogger M. Keiser said...

thats awesome.

I once met al gore. I think your story is far more interesting, though.

6:22 PM  
Blogger PWS said...

Yes it was awesome. Al Gore is awesome too though. Did you talk with him or just shake his hand?

11:38 PM  

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