Elliott Carter/Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Aldeburgh Festival, Aldeburgh
Wednesday 24 June 2009
You can't keep a composer away from his music," explained a smiling Elliott Carter – now approaching his 101st birthday – when asked what made him fly the Atlantic last week. He had come to Aldeburgh to witness a blizzard of his works in performance, plus the unveiling of a new one, but he began with a public interview with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, in which he proved conclusively that you're only as old as you feel.
What's fascinating about Carter is the way he didn't find his true voice until he was seventy. "I'm a fanatic," he told us. "I wouldn't be happy unless I was writing music, trying to do things I haven't done before." He talked of the pleasure of finding that voice, and using it to explore the layering of time, which was something (pace Proust) which music did better than words. And it was piquant to hear this arch-modernist declare that his polyphonic experiments picked up where the Elizabethan madrigalists had left off. When Aimard announced his intention of playing a series of Carter's works, he beamingly said he hoped he'd like them, whereupon we launched into a wonderfully unorthodox concert.
First came two of his "tribute" pieces: the first shaped by oblique intervals tethered by a sequence of chords as though planted in the earth, the second with three- and four-note patterns running rings round each other, which Carter aptly described as being "like a sprinkling of notes, a drizzle of sound". Then, to show how he built his harmonies, he put his own hands to the keyboard, and the touch of the master was still fresh and firm. "They're not as bad as I thought," he commented drily as Aimard spun his way through yet more polyphonies; what they had in common was clarity, economy, and a deft resolution at the end.
Carter's new work, "On Conversing with Paradise", is an 11-minute setting of some fragments of Ezra Pound. Under Oliver Knussen's incisive baton, baritone Leigh Melrose and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group evoked a timelessly simple and savage world which made the Maltings rafters ring. Modal rather than tonal, and grounded in throbbing percussion, it delineated a view of heaven from hell with unassailable authority.
Radio 3's 'Hear and Now' will broadcast these and other Aldeburgh events on 11 and 18 July
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after Wembley Stadium rant
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Taylor Swift banned from Triple J Hottest 100: Fans react to epic #Tay4Hottest100 defeat
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks