'He was, for me, the greatest American composer that has ever lived.' - John Tavener
Elliott Carter, as one of America's celebrated composers, beqeathed to his country's music a distinctive array of uncompromisingly challenging works. Whatever course music will run over the next century, an output such as this will be regarded for its vitality and progressive nature.
Born in New York on 11 December 1908, the young Elliott Cook Carter Jr was encouraged by composer Charles Ives (who sold insurance to Carter's well-to-do family). His teachers included Nadia Boulanger, Gustav Holst and Walter Piston.
During his long career, Carter taught extensively at many different institutions, and his many awards included two Pulitzer Prizes. His early work was neoclassical in style, but after 1950 he progressed to an atonal style using complex rhythms and 'metric modulation' (a term coined to describe the precise changes of tempo specified in his scores). Instrumental voices would often have their own set of tempi, and stuctural polyrhythms were used, his desire being to create a different kind of motion, where players would not be locked to the downbeat at the start of each measure.
Carter was especially productive, compositionally, during his later years, becoming the grand old man of American contemporary classical music, and completing his last work in August 2012. Elliott Carter died of natural causes at home in New York City - he had lived in Greenwich Village since 1945 - on 5 November 2012, aged 103.
A selection of M&V articles about Elliott Carter
CD Spotlight. Unfaltering Artistry - Contemporary music for solo violin, heard by the late Howard Smith. 'Koh is magnificent in this devilish smorgasbord of chords, harmonics and subdued left hand pizzicato interjections ...'
CD Spotlight. Quite Splendid - American vocal and symphonic music, heard by Bill Newman. '... much enjoyment and interest ...'
Ensemble. Fascinatingly Varied - The Eblana String Trio and David Curington at Derby Chamber Music, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Rich Timbres - Music by Robert Baksa, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'The performances express Baksa's gentle optimism beautifully.'
A Useful Survey - Thomas May's 'The John Adams Reader', reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Record Box. A Theoretician's Knowledge - Andrew Violette's Sonata for unaccompanied violin, reviewed by Howard Smith
Record Box. Superb Performances - Ursula Oppens plays Elliott Carter, celebrated by Patric Standford
Ensemble. A Pianistic Phenomenon - Malcolm Troup was at Qian Wu's recent London South Bank recital
Giants? - Alistair Hinton replies to Patric Standford's latest Provocative Thoughts
Country music? - Greg Barns muses on an Elliott Carter recording by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra