Carter: Gra; Enchanted Preludes; Duo; Scrivo in vento; Changes; Con leggerezza pensosa; Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi; Cello Sonata

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COMPOSERS: Carter
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Gra; Enchanted Preludes; Duo; Scrivo in vento; Changes; Con leggerezza pensosa; Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi; Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Charles Neidich (clarinet), Harvey Sollberger (flute), Fred Sherry (cello), Rolfe Schulte (violin), David Starobin (guitar), Martin Goldray, Charles Wuorinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BCD 9044 DDD
Elliott Carter’s two major string/piano duos – the Cello Sonata of 1948 and the 1974 Duo for violin and piano – here balance six of the short works for one, two or three players, tributes and playful arabesques, which have so unexpectedly thronged his latest decade of creativity. The result is an invaluable, kaleidoscopic introduction to one of the liveliest instrumental minds of our time.

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Fred Sherry and Charles Wuorinen fluently dispatch the four-movement Cello Sonata, the earliest and apparently most ‘traditional’ work in the collection. Yet this is where Carter first refined his ideas of metrical modulation, conflict and cross-purpose between players: mainstream Americana turning Cubist and many-dimensional. It’s also eloquent, even gabby, and volatile in the sense of forever aspiring to flight. In the single-movement, mosaic-like Duo the torrential discourse continues without any reference to traditional tonality or structure, but Rolf Schulte and Martin Goldray here turn in a far more amiable and beguiling version of this ragged, mercurial work than did Robert Mann and Christopher Oldfather two years ago on Sony.

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The short pieces, from the guitar study Changes (1983) to last year’s Gra for clarinet in homage to Lutoslawski, aren’t exactly miniatures, but relaxed fantasies of tone colour and technique: ‘tennis matches for the imagination’ is the striking image in David Schiff’s liner notes. Amiably and insistently they test the virtuosity of the individual instrumentalists, and the members of the Group for Contemporary Music rise joyfully to their challenges in nicely realistic, not over-bright sound. Calum MacDonald