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Elliott Carter: A Nonesuch Retrospective

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Audio CD, February 24, 2009
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Elliott Carter: A Nonesuch Retrospective + Elliott Carter: The Complete String Quartets 1-5 Pacifica Quartet
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Product Details

  • Conductor: Gerard Schwarz, James Levine, Arthur Weisberg, Oliver Knussen
  • Composer: Elliott Carter
  • Audio CD (February 24, 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,747 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Piano Sonata (1945, rev. 1982)
2. Dust Of Snow (1942)
3. The Rose Family (1942)
4. The Minotaur (1947)
5. Elegy for String Orchestra (1952)
Disc: 2
1. Sonata for Cello & Piano (1948)
2. String Quartet No. 1 (1959)
3. Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello, & Harpsichord (1952)
Disc: 3
1. Variations for Orchestra (1955)
2. String Quartet No. 2 (1959)
3. Double Concerto for Harpsichord & Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras (1961)
Disc: 4
1. Night Fantasies (1980)
2. Triple Duo (1982)
3. In Sleep, In Thunder (1981)

Editorial Reviews

This four-disc retrospective documents some of Carter's most essential works, recorded for Nonesuch between 1968 and 1985.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Aaron on March 31, 2009
Format: Audio CD
This is a convenient box containing a handful of Carter's best music up to 1982, from the early Piano Sonata to the Triple Duo. Many of the recordings are currently available from Nonesuch as individual releases (Nonesuch 71234, 71249, and 79248), but if you've put off buying any of these, now is your chance to get them all at a bargain price.

The clincher for this set, though, is the release of a few key recordings never available on CD or currently out of print. Paul Jacobs' 1982 recording of Night Fantasies -- Carter's largest work for piano and one of the most significant works for the instrument of the last fifty years -- has inexplicably never been released in digital format, and it's an essential addition to the discography. Jacobs was one of the four joint commissioners of the piece, and his performance is entirely as worthwhile as Oppens' and Rosen's. More deliberate than either of those, Jacobs luxuriates in the expansive chordal sections, but still flies through the more virtuosic passages with abandon. He may not have Oppens' delicate counterpoint or Rosen's architectural prowess, but it's a compelling and historically significant performance.

We also get reissues of the Triple Duo (also performed by the dedicatees, The Fires of London) and the 1981 song cycle In Sleep, In Thunder (with Martyn Hill and the London Sinfonietta, led by longtime Carter advocate Oliver Knussen), and a bonus of James Levine's fantastic performance of the Variations for Orchestra with the CSO, previously released on Deutsche Grammophon.

The other performances are well-documented and reviewed elsewhere; suffice it to say, they are all definitive recordings by seasoned Elliott Carter performers.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Leonard on May 13, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've found Elliott Carter's music quite difficult over the years, and even with so much exposure to his more recent output at the 100th birthday concerts, I've had my share of problems. I decided to go back to the beginning and ordered this box, which has mainly the Nonesuch recordings of his earlier output through to the early 1970s, including the famous Composers Quartet renditions of the first two string quartets. What I heard was a revelation. I finally started to "understand," in the sense of having some musical appreciation, of this music. Nonesuch also licensed some fine recordings of early Carter works from other sources, so the box gives you a decent cross-section, including some orchestral music well performed. I can recommend this very highly for people looking for a "way into Carter."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus on September 9, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Elliott Carter (1908-2012) turned 100 in 2008, and there were several releases for the occasion. Nonesuch was a little late with its contribution -- this excellent box came out in 2009.

It is an excellent Carter collection, a Brilliant-style box without jewel cases. Each disc is in a cardboard slipcase with a different photo of the composer on the front. Between the covers and the 58-page booklet, there are several good black-and-white photos of Carter. The liner notes by Paul Griffiths are illuminating, and there are also testimonials from Ursula Oppens, Fred Sherry, Tod Machover, and Virgil Blackwell, as well as the complete text of the Six Poems by Robert Lowell set to music in "In Sleep, In Thunder."

The original recordings of the String Quartet No. 1 (1951) and No. 2 (1959) by the Composers Quartet included here were the last I heard, following the later versions by the Juilliard Quartet, the Arditti Quartet, and the Pacifica Quartet. I don't consider them definitive, but I am certainly glad to have another set of interpretations of what I consider to be THE great cycle of string quartets of the late Twentieth Century.

The "Double Concerto for Harpsichord & Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras" (1961) is quite astounding, and is one of the highlights, with Paul Jacobs on harpsichord and Gilbert Kalish on piano. Carter's ballet "The Minotaur" (32'49 -- 1947) is a charming Stravinsky-influenced early work from the years before Carter found his unique voice.

While dominated by chamber music, Nonesuch did obtain the rights to James Levine's recording of
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By dysfunctional-harmony on November 25, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When I opened the package I discovered in my mailbox yesterday afternoon, a tingling sensation ran down my spine. It was in anticipation of both the gorgeous musical vistas and the terrifyingly complex structures that awaited upon opening this Pandora's box of a composer's oeuvre.

The first disc opens with an exciting performance by Paul Jacobs of Carter's early Piano Sonata (1945). In general, the first disc is composed of the music Carter wrote while he was still largely under the influence of Nadia Boulanger, and writing in a comfortable, Americana-esque idiom. But even by this time, he was starting to feel constrained by an allegience to public opinion, and such feelings were audibly leaking into his music, which was taking a more overall episodic feel than originally. It is a cause for celebration to have Jacob's performance back in print, though it faces stern competition from Ursula Oppens on Cedille, whose lightness of tough is well suited to the more dance-like sections of the piece. In his Elegy for String Orchestra (1952), Carter continues his more Coplandesque idiom even after he wrote such dissonant works as the First Quartet, but adds touches of chromaticism nowhere to be found in Copland's works. And in the Minotaur, we see a little glimpse of just what is to come...

The second disc is a perfect way of analyzing the gradual transformation of Carter's style towards the more difficult. It opens with the banging chords of the opening Cello Sonata (1948), which is almost certainly my personal favorite work by Carter, period. The performance perfectly captures the atmosphere of each movement, whether it be the plight of the cello against the grain of the piano in the first, the jazzy atmosphere of the second, or the song-like third.
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