Carter: Quintets And Voices / Oppens, Arditti Sq, Et Al

Release Date: 12/9/2003
Label: Mode
Catalog Number: MOD-CD-128
Composer: Elliott Carter
Number of Discs: 1

Physical Format:

CD
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$18.99
Notes and Editorial Reviews
A entertaining collection of recent Carter: a nonagenarian with plenty still to say

It’s most unusual for a contemporary work to have three recordings issued within a year or so: and while the piano piece Retrouvailles (2000) is not Carter at his most demanding – a tribute for Boulez’s 75th birthday, it lasts less than two minutes – Ursula Oppens’s performance comes at the end of one of the most substantial and well-varied Carter programmes on disc.

Pride of place goes to Syringa (1978), an intricate exploration of the relation between words and music in which Carter combines a poem about Orpheus by John Ashbery (for soprano) with extracts from ancient Greek texts (baritone). With a rich instrumental accompaniment in which the opposite extremes of guitar and trombone are prominent, Syringa offers fascinating insights into Carterian aesthetics.

The Quintet for Piano and Wind (1991) was written for Heinz Holliger and friends, but the Mode team has nothing to fear from the comparison. Oppens’s playing is as emotionally responsive as it is rhythmically precise, even though the recorded sound (generally adequate) does the piano few favours.

The other vocal work, Tempo e Tempi (1998) – settings of Italian texts for soprano and four instruments – is warmly moulded, if less clearly articulated than in the (unconducted) performance on Bridge sung by Susan Narucki. But, with the Arditti Quartet on hand to begin the programme with a gripping account of the far-from-casual Fragment II (1999), the CD has much of distinction to offer.

The DVD adds a performance of the Quintet with strings, and a 40-minute conversation, filmed in February 2000. Though this is probably less informative than separate interviews would have been, it contains some interesting exchanges, and Carter’s ability to summarise his objectives in clear and simple terms, as in his comments on Syringa, remains remarkable. The Quintet performance takes place with the camera in constant motion, and while the close focus (more on faces than fingers) and dramatic lighting match the intensity of the music, and underline the different performance styles – the Arditti team cool and collected, Oppens anxiously watchful – there’s a danger of being distracted from the tersely eventful music by the restlessness of the camera-work.

-- Arnold Whittall, Gramophone [Awards Issue 2004}
Works on This Recording
1. Quintet for Piano and Strings by Elliott Carter
Performer: Dov Scheindlin (Viola), Graeme Jennings (Violin), Rohan de Saram (Cello), Irvine Arditti (Violin), Ursula Oppens (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble: Arditti String Quartet
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1997 ; USA
2. Fragment for String Quartet by Elliott Carter
Performer: Dov Scheindlin (Viola), Graeme Jennings (Violin), Rohan de Saram (Cello), Irvine Arditti (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble: Arditti String Quartet
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1994 ; USA
3. Quintet for Piano and Winds by Elliott Carter
Performer: Charles Neidich (Clarinet), Stephen [oboe] Taylor (Oboe), William Purvis (French Horn), Frank Morelli (Bassoon), Ursula Oppens (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1991 ; USA
4. Syringa by Elliott Carter
Performer: Lucy Shelton (Soprano), André Solomon-Glover (Bass)
Conductor: Jeffrey Milarsky
Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Sospeso
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1978 ; USA
5. Tempo e tempi by Elliott Carter
Performer: Robert Ingliss (Oboe), Robert Ingliss (English Horn), Lucy Shelton (Soprano), Marianne Gythfeldt (Clarinet), Mark Menzies (Violin), Marianne Gythfeldt (Bass Clarinet), Wendy Sutter (Cello)
Conductor: Stefan Asbury
Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Sospeso
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1999 ; New York, USA
6. Retrouvailles by Elliott Carter
Performer: Ursula Oppens (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 2000 ; USA
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