Regarding Elliott Carter’s upcoming 90th birthday, Ken Smith states that “in Los Angeles the celebration has already begun,” listing performances of Carter’s works by the L.A. Philharmonic, Southwest Chamber Music and the Arditti Quartet (“A Composer for the Century,” Nov. 15).
Actually, the local celebration began Oct. 5 with Monday Evening Concerts’ West Coast premiere of Carter’s Clarinet Concerto performed by Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, an important event that was not without some notice.
Director of Music Programs
L.A. County Museum of Art
I used to make excuses for contemporary composers who wrote inaccessible music. Then I discovered a whole new generation of composers, writing very accessible new music, in a thoroughly modern style, that doesn’t sound like anyone else. The music of Aaron Jay Kernis, Lowell Lieberman, Richard Danielpour and--especially--Christopher Rouse has something Elliott Carter’s music lacks: emotional impact. This singular trait it shares with Carter’s supposed models, Ives and Varese, whose works--however challenging and novel--also managed to communicate something to their audience.
Carter claims that people go to concerts to hear Beethoven and Brahms because it reminds them of an era “when people were wealthy and had great chandeliers.” Hogwash! Most of us regard such 19th century materialism as pure decadence. We go to hear Beethoven and Brahms because the music touches us in a way that Carter’s rarely--if ever--does.