Carter: Eight Pieces for Four Timpani; Tempo e tempi; Luimen; Shard

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COMPOSERS: Carter
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Eight Pieces for Four Timpani; Tempo e tempi; Luimen; Shard
PERFORMER: David Starobin (guitar), Susan Narucki (soprano), Daniel Druckman (timpani); Speculum Musicae/William Purvis
CATALOGUE NO: 9111
At the 1998 Pontino Festival in Italy, I was invited to give a talk on Carter’s late music. The festival was celebrating his imminent 90th birthday, and he had composed a new piece for the occasion – a setting of a poem by Eugenio Montale called ‘Tempo e tempi’. Carter later added seven further numbers, to poems by Ungaretti, Montale and Quasimodo, to form what is surely the most beautiful and serene of all the song cycles of his extraordinary Indian summer of creativity. Also comparatively recent are the short solo guitar piece called Shard (brilliantly played here by David Starobin) and the shimmering Luimen, for an ensemble including harp, mandolin and guitar, which acts in part as a commentary on Shard, absorbing it into its fabric.

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The Eight Pieces for timpani are rhythmic studies, written mostly in the Fifties, when Carter was experimenting with his ideas of tempo modulation. Their published order has been changed here to provide maximum variety, though no one – least of all Carter himself – would suggest they should be taken in at a single sitting.

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These are all dedicated performances, and essential listening for anyone interested in this composer. They have been recorded with admirable clarity, albeit in an excessively dry and bright acoustic. Misha Donat