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Carter: Piano Concerto, Variations For Orchestra

Release Date: 12/08/1992 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80347   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Elliott Carter
Performer:  Phillip RuderUrsula OppensThomas LeGrandGeorge Hambrecht,   ... 
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 45 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

R E V I E W S:

The first CD devoted to Carter contains what is probably the toughest of all his works—a vigorous riposte to those who have been bewailing the alleged lack of enterprise of recording companies. I hope the courage of New World Records will be rewarded. But do the actual performances merit such enthusiasm?

On the whole, they do. Like the only previous LP recording of the Concerto (RCA SB6756, 11/68—nla) this one was made at concert performances, and its fearlessness in pursuit of the work's big dramatic goals is palpable. Of all Carter's later works this is the most uncompromising in its exploration of conflicts and incompatibilities, of shifting alliances and uneasy accommodations. Its formidable
Read more technical challenges extend beyond the soloist to the concertino of seven wind and string players who mediate between the pianist and the orchestral mass. The recording itself makes a fair attempt at balancing and distinguishing these diverse forces, though the concertino solos can sound rather awkwardly spotlit, and the orchestral undertow sometimes moves too far into the background. But Ursula Oppens is a tower of strength at the centre of the storm, shaping her shoals of notes with unflagging responsiveness to the twists and turns of the unfolding drama. The orchestral playing has moments of roughness and anxiety, but the experienced hand of Michael Gielen ensures that the work's spirit survives intact, not least its gestures towards the lost world of romantic lyricism.

The Variations for Orchestra of only ten years earlier are much closer to that world, and to the broad rhetoric of well-made American symphonic music. This is a single, presumably unedited take of a public performance, and there are again a few rough edges in the playing, as well as a little audience noise. But it's a well prepared, convincing reading, and will certainly serve until a more polished, digital studio recording comes along. Even then, the sheer excitement of these performances will prove difficult to match.

Comparing the Variations with the Concerto, listeners may find themselves wishing that the composer had not so comprehensively abandoned the idiom of the former. But it is the same restless, questing spirit and protean imagination so central to the Variations that gives the troubling, demanding but never incoherent Piano Concerto its essential impulse. Both works deserve the close attention that this recording makes possible.

-- Arnold Whittall, Gramophone [4/1987]

The Concerto is a densely argued piece, complex in its structure, with a concertino of seven instruments, surrounding the piano, who act as 'a well-meaning but impotent intermediary.'
Michael Gielen directs strong, purposeful readings, very well played, of this taxing music, clarifying the thornily complex arguments with Ursula Oppens a powerful soloist.
The Variations is an inventive and fascinating work, splendidly played by the Cincinnati forces. The recording was made at concert performances and is excellent.
-- Penguin Guide [2003/2004]
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano by Elliott Carter
Performer:  Phillip Ruder (Violin), Ursula Oppens (Piano), Thomas LeGrand (Bass Clarinet),
George Hambrecht (Flute), Marna Street-Ramsey (Viola), Barry Green (Double Bass),
William Harrod (English Horn), John Sharp (Cello)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964-1965; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1985 
Venue:  Live  Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio 
Length: 22 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Variations for Orchestra by Elliott Carter
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954-1955; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/1985 
Venue:  Live  Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio 
Length: 22 Minutes 17 Secs. 

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