Carter: Quintet for Piano and Wind; Scrivo in vento; Con leggerezza pensosa; Inner Song; esprit rude/esprit doux; Gra

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COMPOSERS: Carter
LABELS: Arion
WORKS: Quintet for Piano and Wind; Scrivo in vento; Con leggerezza pensosa; Inner Song; esprit rude/esprit doux; Gra
PERFORMER: Maurice Bourgue (oboe), André Cazalet (horn), Claire Désert (piano), Patrick Gallois (flute), Michel Lethiec (clarinet), Arto Noras (cello), Gérard Poulet (violin), Amaury Wallez (bassoon)
CATALOGUE NO: ARN 68495
So healthy is Elliott Carter’s discography that none of these eight items is a first recording, but they make a very handy cross-section of his chamber-music output from the last three decades, ranging from solo miniatures to big ensemble pieces. The assemblage, rather than ensemble, of distinguished (mainly French) soloists plays with impressive skill, identification and obvious affection. So clearly responsive are these players to Carter’s often daunting instrumental demands that we hear beyond the notes to the heart of the matter, the sheer eloquence and expressiveness of this mercurial music, ever remaking itself anew. These pieces are ‘contemporary classics’, if anything is.

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There’s not much repose to be found here: far more esprit rude than esprit doux. But plenty of poetry is caught on the wing. Some of these pieces were written for Heinz Holliger, but Maurice Bourgue outdoes even him with a piercingly passionate account of the solo piece Inner Song. Patrick Gallois and Arto Noras run this close in their scintillating exposition of the flute/cello Enchanted Preludes. But perhaps the best thing here is Gérard Poulet’s and Claire Désert’s account of the earliest work on the programme, the 1973 violin/piano Duo which has always seemed to me one of Carter’s knottiest scores, as it is one of the most technically challenging. In their hands it emerges as cogent, fluid and frequently witty, right down to the violin’s ‘squeeze-box’ ending. The Paris church acoustic is remarkably clear and vibrant. Altogether one of the finest Carter anthologies currently available. Calum MacDonald