I met Elliott in 1984 when he came to Cincinnati for a performance of his Piano Concerto by Ursula Oppens and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with Michael Gielen conducting. Elliott arrived ahead for rehearsals and he was excited by what he heard. I was Music Director of WGUC-FM, the classical music station that broadcasts the CSO concerts. We were just beginning to do digital recordings so I made sure that we recorded the final rehearsal and both performances digitally.
The first performance was on a Friday morning with an audience full of white-haired ladies. When Elliott got up to go on stage to take a bow, an elderly lady sitting just behind me said: “Oh, look. He’s one of us.”
That night we gave a dinner party for Elliott in the course of which I talked to him about writing a choral work for the Cincinnati May Festival and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to mark the 200th anniversary of Cincinnati. He said he would think about it and about what text might work. Some months later I got an interesting letter from him, saying that for philosophical reasons he couldn’t write a choral piece, that “choral music represents a social cohesiveness and agreement about worthy goals – which I no longer see in the world we live in….”
Elliott was very pleased with the performances of the Piano Concerto and asked if there was the possibility of the live recording released on a disc. On Sunday morning, Elliott and I and Ursula and her parents, who had come for the concert, went down to the WGUC studio and listened to the performances. Clearly we could assemble a first-class recording. We even had Side B for the LP: a concert recording of Variations for Orchestra, which the CSO had played the year before. Elliott asked me to help make the disc happen, and I did. Enchanted Preludes was his thank you to me.
1988, the year that Elliott wrote Enchanted Preludes for my 50th birthday, was his 80th birthday. The piece being his most recent, it was widely performed, and my husband Harry, who had commissioned it, and I went to many of the performances. In the fall of 1988 we went to Badenweiler in Switzerland for a festival of Elliott’s music. I was a little disappointed that Enchanted Preludes had not been programmed, but when I mentioned it Elliott said that the Badenweiler program was set before the piece was available. I gently suggested to Klaus Lauer who organized the festival that perhaps it could be an encore, but he told me he couldn’t find the right players. It was a wonderful festival with great Carter performers – Ursula Oppens, Charles Rosen, the Arditti Quartet and others. At the last concert of the festival, the final piece on the program was played, and Klaus got up to thank Elliott. He said: “As long as music is performed here, the music of Elliott Carter will be heard. And now we have a final piece which he wrote for his friend, Ann Santen.” And Enchanted Preludes closed the festival. It was one of the loveliest surprises of my life.