Aimard/Boulez, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Reviewed by Michael Church
Wednesday 17 December 2008
How nice to be able to wish centenarian composer Elliott Carter many happy returns, even if he's only present in a video interview. Here to do the honours were his friend Pierre Boulez (a sprightly 83) with his house band, Ensemble Intercontemporain, and his and Carter's pianist of choice, Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
Two years ago, I asked Carter how he composed. "It just starts to happen," he said. "I'm lying in bed, and suddenly a good idea comes, and I jump up and write it down." That, it seems, was how this evening's UK premiere, Catenaires, grew into a work at once dazzling and exquisite. Carter describes it as "a fast one-line piece, a continuous chain of notes". Both hands working furiously, Aimard delivered swarms of ideas which mysteriously gave the impression of relaxed repose. This formed a triptych with Matribute, in which a low, slow melody was pelted with staccato high notes like hailstones, and Intermittences, which sometimes held its breath, and sometimes broke into frantic garrulousness.
Carter's Clarinet Concerto, composed for the same musicians who now brought it to the South Bank, is a miracle of controlled exuberance. He places his instrumental colours in delicate dabs and washes, and lets his seven short movements segue into one another. On record, you wonder why he ends each movement on a loud passage, but hearing it live, you understand: this is to cover the fact that strings, brass, percussion and woodwind are arranged in separate groups, and the soloist must walk from group to group. There was a wonderful transparency in the performances of this and the night's other Carter work, Dialogues, in which piano and orchestra played a turbulent game.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 3 Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Britain's first cinema flickers back to life following £6m refurbishment
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC exit
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew