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Elliott Carter

James Wierzbicki

Publication Year: 2011

This compact study provides a fresh perspective on one of the most significant American composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A leading voice of the American classical music tradition and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, Elliott Carter was initially encouraged to become a composer by Charles Ives, and he went on to learn from Walter Piston at Harvard University and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Drawing on Carter's voluminous writings and compositions, James Wierzbicki provides a clear discussion of Carter's evolving understanding of musical time and the influence of film on his work. Celebrating his 100th birthday in 2008 by premiering a number of new compositions, Carter has been a powerful presence on the American new music scene, an important connection to American music's foundational figures, and a dynamic force in its continuing evolution.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: American Composers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-4

For any musically trained person who has grappled with the intricacies of a Carter score, surely the temptation is great to focus largely on technical matters. After all, Carter’s music demands extraordinary attention and precision of its performers, and for at least six decades it has been replete with “learned devices” ...

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1. Foundations (1908-45)

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pp. 5-31

An unfortunately enduring myth has it that Elliott Carter was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth and that this good fortune somehow related both to Carter’s intellectual grounding and to his work as a composer. Often echoed and paraphrased, the misleading idea likely stems from 1957, when Richard Franko Goldman ...

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2. Three Seminal Works (1945-51)

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pp. 32-49

Recalling from firsthand experience the considerable buzz that surrounded the initial performances (in 1947) and the publication (in 1948) of the Piano Sonata, Rorem was on the mark when he suggested—from the perspective of three decades later—that it had long been “generally agreed” that the Piano Sonata was the first demonstration of the uniquely “Carteresque” style. ...

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3. Maturity (1950-80)

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pp. 50-74

Carter’s String Quartet No. 1 was written over a ten-month period in 1950–51 during which the composer was supported by a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. Work on his 1945–46 Piano Sonata had been funded by the same philanthropic organization, and in 1950 Carter benefited not just from the second Guggenheim Fellowship ...

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4. New Directions (1980-2010)

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pp. 75-96

Between 1950 and 1980 virtually all of Elliott Carter’s compositions were written for and premiered by American artists. Yet during these decades his music had plenty of performances in Europe, and Carter was of the general opinion that his works were not only better treated in terms of allotted rehearsal time but also better received, ...

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pp. 97-100

In a review of the 1988 reissue in paperback of David Schiff’s book, H. Wiley Hitchcock remarked, almost casually, that “it is difficult to generalize about Carter’s music and what makes it tick.”1 Such a statement might apply to any composer, but it seems especially true when applied to a composer who has lived as long and has been as productive as Carter. ...


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pp. 101-116


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pp. 117-122

About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 134-138

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093128
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036095

Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: American Composers