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Elliott CARTER (b. 1908)
Three Occasions for Orchestra (1987) [15:59]
Violin Concerto (1990) [25:45]
Concerto for Orchestra (1989) [20:55]
Ole Böhn (violin)
London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
rec. Blackheath Concert Halls, London, 3 June 1991 (Occasions); February 1991, Henry Wood Hall, London. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

I am sure that many people are hoping that the American Classics line will not start and end with the ten discs issued in May. While EMI's vaults may not be as generously stocked with American music as with British music there is surely much more to come. I think particularly of Abravanel's splendid Utah Symphony Orchestra recording of the Roy Harris Folksong Symphony and their Albany collection of tone-poems from the American Musical Renaissance. If they could also strike a deal with Sony to reissue the Ruggles-Tilson Thomas recordings issued on vinyl by CBS in 1973 the company would sweep the board. As it is, the present month's release schedule mixes the usual suspects with the less predictable such as this extremely valuable reissue from 1992. 

The long-lived and staggeringly productive Elliott Carter is represented by three works in his later non-tonal idiom. Two of the works strike me as episodically engaging while the third has a more consistent grip on the attention. Carter specialises in episodic constructs and this is in evidence here. The manner is virtually expected in the Three Occasions and in the Concerto for Orchestra. The first two Occasions present the composer as the master of bejewelled incident - a sequence of flurries, eddies, squalls and fleeting tempests. The third, Anniversary, is more prepossessing with a sour-edged lyrical flux and several intriguing asides such as the impudent clarinet figuration towards the close. The Concerto for Orchestra virtually incites flashes of virtuosity and this Carter provides across six movements including a bat-wing fluttering Presto volando. Oliver Knussen and the well practised London Sinfonietta are attuned to this music and play it with consummate confidence. They were fully aware of the honours and duties of making the first commercial recordings of these works. In contrast with the other works the Violin Concerto conveys a greater sense of line and communication. Ole Böhn's absorbed and absorbing advocacy undoubtedly help. Here Carter's music moves between furious atonal yet aspirational virtuosity, the spattered angular projection of a Jackson Pollock, ancient mysteries (the central Angosciato) and the feathery-spiky, William Schuman-like Scherzando

Martin Cotton's notes do not tell us the simple essentials about dates of works and of premieres and dedications. A pity. 

A superbly recorded and brilliantly performed Carter collection.

Rob Barnett


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