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Carter: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5

Elliott Carter , Pacifica Quartet Audio CD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Price: $11.27 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. String Quartet No. 1: I. Maestoso 9:05Album Only
listen  2. String Quartet No. 1: I. Allegro scorrevole (from bar 356) 3:28$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  3. String Quartet No. 1: II. Allegro scorrevole 1:19$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  4. String Quartet No. 1: II. Adagio (from bar 57)11:58Album Only
listen  5. String Quartet No. 1: III. Variations13:33Album Only
listen  6. String Quartet No. 5: Introduction 1:23$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  7. String Quartet No. 5: I. Giocoso 2:31$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  8. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude I 1:04$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  9. String Quartet No. 5: II. Lento espressivo 2:11$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen10. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude II 1:22$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen11. String Quartet No. 5: III. Presto scorrevole 1:07$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen12. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude III 1:29$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen13. String Quartet No. 5: IV. Allegro energico 1:52$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen14. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude IV 1:58$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen15. String Quartet No. 5: V. Adagio sereno 2:46$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen16. String Quartet No. 5: Interlude V 1:38$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen17. String Quartet No. 5: VI. Capriccioso 1:38$0.89  Buy MP3 

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Carter: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5 + Elliott Carter: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3 and 4 + Elliott Carter: Concerto for Orchestra
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Product Details

  • Performer: Pacifica Quartet
  • Composer: Elliott Carter
  • Audio CD (January 29, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,491 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews


2008: The Year in Review
Honorable mention in the Ten Best Classical Music Recordings of 2008 by Alex Ross -- The New Yorker, Alex Ross, December 15, 2008

Both of these quartets are interpreted with great sensitivity and executed with tremendous skill. That success is due, in part, to the Pacificas' intimate association with Carter and his quartets; the Pacificas performed the entire quartet cycle during a 2003 international tour and have worked closely with the soon-to-be 100-year-old composer to fathom the depth of his work. It's a master class that has borne rich awards. --, Greg Cahill, May 2008

Even if you're not (yet) a modern music enthusiast, the brio of these performances and the superb sound might just turn your head. A great release, which leaves me with nothing else to say. --

Musical America 2009 Ensemble of the Year -- Musical America, December 2008

Prototypically American, Atypically Challenging

A friend of mine once asked Pierre Boulez why he had taken up the music of Elliott Carter and done so much to make it an international presence. Mr. Boulez, a French composer and conductor, had an interesting answer: "Because he sounded so American."

Mr. Carter, approaching his 100th birthday and subject of the Focus! 2008 weeklong series of concerts at the Juilliard School, could not be mistaken for a soulful Russian, a singing Italian or a Central European bearing the accumulated spiritual weight of the centuries. In his music there is no patina, only fresh paint. The edges are not worn smooth but sharp to the touch.

James Levine conducted the Juilliard Orchestra in the "Symphonia: sum fluxae pretieum spei" and the Cello Concerto, a very large mouthful of Mr. Carter's art and one that assuredly left these splendid young musicians and a packed Saturday night house at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater both satisfied and exhausted. The cellist Dane Johansen was brave and virtuosic and needed to be both.

The idea of Mr. Carter as American-made makes sense. There are the reserves of psychic energy: the impulsiveness and aggression, the hard work achieved through high sophistication, the absence of neurosis. The concerto greets us with the musical equivalent of gunshots. The contrasting lyrical writing sings gracefully; it shines but without a hint of sweetness.

The "Symphonia" gathers three movements composed separately that together constitute an evening of listening all in themselves. Mr. Carter makes no pretense of simplicity. He has that American knack for making complex constructions work. The Cello Concerto resembles a series of conversations between one instrument and different parts of the orchestra, from percussion to choirs of reed instruments to brass in little puffs of sound. There is an elaborate solo introduction and a big orchestra response at the end.

Mr. Carter and his audience create another microcosm of the America experience. People on Saturday, the concluding performance of the Carter celebration, struggled to find seats, so concentrated and intense was this sophisticated gathering. His music was being conducted by one of the world's great conductors and a fervent admirer, and it is deceiving to call the Juilliard players a student orchestra. The difficulties were immense, and the attention required to deal with Mr. Carter's quicksilver changes in movement and color unabating.

Yet in the larger world of classical-music audiences -- those who find comfort in Mozart, inspiration in Beethoven and exotic fantasies fulfilled in Ravel or the young Stravinsky -- Mr. Carter has virtually no audience at all. Like America as seen by some nations, he is famous, admired and not particularly liked. Also like many Americans in the postwar era, he was born into comfort, has lived in prosperity and functioned with a confidence bordering on impunity. Most of us want everybody to love us, but Mr. Carter seems comfortable with the admiration of the chosen.

Americana of another kind began the evening with "Three Places in New England," Charles Ives's great essay on the powers and pitfalls of memory. Beneath an orchestral glaze of indeterminacy, 19th-century hymn tunes, marches and popular songs struggle to the surface and then recede. Ives does not prepare us for the endings of his movements. "The Housatonic at Stockbridge" simply trails away in midsentence. It is like waking abruptly from a dream.

Ives did things no European would have ever done because there was no European around to tell him he couldn't. There is an element of Mr. Carter in Ives's music but also a world of difference. Mr. Carter is an original, but he is no eccentric. -- The New York Times, February 2008, Bernard Holland

The still young, but very well established Pacifica Quartet gives convincing and passionate performances of these extremely difficult pieces which are among the most daunting but rewarding chamber works of our time. -- The Whole Note Magazine, Davis Ods

Product Description

Released to celebrate the American master Elliott Carter' centenary, this is the first of two discs of the complete String Quartets. Carter himself has written: 'I probably decided to write what was to be the First Quartet when I read about a composition

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Naxos cashes in on the Carter craze January 31, 2008
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
It isn't necessary anymore to mention in every review that Elliott Carter will turn 100 in December 2008 and that at 99 he is still vital and composing, but it's just too impressive and heartening a fact to ignore. As a centenary offering, Naxos is releasing Carter's five string quartets in two volumes, performed by the Pacifica Quartet. This first disk contains the composer's first and, to date, his last works in the genre.
The First, from 1951, is generally considered Carter's breakthrough into his signature brand of modernism -- a sweeping, forty-minute tour de force, in three big sections, teeming with all the technical and expressive ideas that had been lurking in his subconscious. The Pacifica, a young group, plays with energy and a high polish that emphasizes beauty over drama, and a blending rather than a confrontation of instruments. The rich sound is particularly impressive in the opening Maestoso. The players seem to lose focus in the transition between the Adagio and the Variations, but they recover in the finale, which, in their hands, is luminous, rather than driving. The work is multifaceted and deep enough to support the approach. The Pacifica reveals a side to Carter that, in the face of all the clichés about his spiky modernism, has been unfairly overlooked.
The Fifth Quartet, which appeared forty-four years after the First, inhabits much the same sound world, but on a more concentrated, intimate scale. The piece is half the length of the First Quartet, yet it has twice as many tracks, each between one and three minutes long. The introduction is followed by six movements, each with a single, sustained character, separated by five interludes that mix together fragments of the extended music.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elliott Carter on Naxos February 13, 2008
Format:Audio CD
This year includes the 100th birthday of the great American composer Elliott Carter (b. 1908). To celebrate the occasion, Naxos is releasing two CDs consisting of Carter's five string quartets, the first and the fifth of which are included on this disk. The Pacifica Quartet, a group of young musicians from California, perform these difficult works with passion and clarity. The Pacifica Quartet specializes in contemporary music, especially the works of Elliott Carter.

Carter began the serious study of music as an adolescent and his efforts were encouraged by Charles Ives. In the 1940s, some of his music (including his first symphony available on Naxos in a recording by Kenneth Schermerhorn) is reminiscent of the Americana music of Aaron Copland, but Carter soon developed his own unmistakably modernist musical voice. (The Schermerhorn CD also includes the difficult Carter piano concerto.) The five string quartets, written over a period of 45 years give an outstanding overview of this modernist American composer.

Although Carter's quartets bristle with difficulties for the performer and listener, I was struck by the accessibility and the visceral, emotional character of these quartets when I first listened through them. There is a tendency to over-intellectualize modern music and Carter's music in particular. But this is music which, when given the chance, speaks to the heart first, before it speaks to the mind, and which mirrors the complexity of both specifically modern experience and of the human condition.

Carter's first string quartet, composed in 1950-51, was among his first modernist efforts. It is a lengthy, difficult work in five movement which are played without a break between them.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative May 26, 2008
Format:Audio CD
This recording is every bit the equal of the earlier Julliard and Arditti discs. Its probably fair to say that Pacifica strikes a midpoint between the coolness of the Arditti recordings and the almost romantic warmth of Julliard. This music benefits from multiple interpetations and viewpoints so it is difficult to speak of one approach being definitive or markedly superior to another when musicians the quality of the Pacifica, Arditti and Julliard quartets are involved. The sound quality here is excellent and given that the Julliard recording is currently out of print, I would recommend this as the first choice for anyone heretofore unfamiliar with Carter's quartets.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Requiem in Recognitionem November 6, 2012
Format:Audio CD
Dead at 103 years of age! The announcement came from his publishers, Booset & Hawkes, on Monday Nov 11, 2012.

Elliot Carter has been respected as "America's greatest composer" since before most of us were born, and yet remains little known beyond the ranks of serious Contemporary Music fans. Aptly enough! Carter's music was and will always be intensely serious. It demands absolute listening attention and listening skills, and only rewards those who come to it seriously. And it's fiendishly difficult to play; there are plenty of major orchestra members who quake in their boots when a rare performance of Carter is scheduled. These quartets are often cited as the "most difficult" in the repertoire, yet I've seldom heard a botched performance of them. It would seem that any musicians who challenge the heights of Carter's exaltation are inspired to reach the apex of their technique.

This is my favorite among several recordings of Carter's quartets. If you are unacquainted with Carter's music,the quartets might best be "saved" until you've practiced listening more. The most approachable peak in the Carter Himalaya is probably his stupendous Symphony of Three Orchestras:Elliott Carter: A Symphony of Three Orchestras; Varèse: Deserts; Ecuatorial; Hyperprism That performance can be sampled on Youtube.
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