Elliott Carter (1908-2012)

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Snape, Suffolk

In the company of Mozart (Piano & Wind Quintet, K452, with Ryan Wigglesworth, piano, and the C-minor Serenade, K388), the Aldeburgh Festival hosted the welcome debuts of two song-cycles by Elliott Carter both composed after he had reached one-hundred. The American Sublime (UK premiere) finds Carter setting Wallace Stevens’s words directly and expressively, great importance placed on retaining the clarity of texts, leaving the ensemble of woodwinds, brass and percussion to provide activity if without overcrowding the singer, the first number occasionally reminding of the circus atmosphere that opens Berg’s Lulu. Three Explorations (from the year before, 2010, European premiere) turns to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets for inspiration. Once again baritone Evan Hughes (who gave the world premieres of both these scores) brought his distinctive voice to colour, shape and shade Carter’s settings, the ear just as intrigued by the writing for woodwind and brass, sometimes complementary, sometimes not. The Mozart works were finely done; a shame the wind-players weren’t named.


Postscript: not for the first time here was a concert presented as if live – no mention of it being recorded, let alone a date. Perhaps new R3 Controller Sam Jackson can do something about such lackadaisical continuity, and he might also consider losing the trailer that holds up the start of each evening concert, live or recorded, and which is an irritant.