It isn’t clear when exactly I first met Elliott Carter – it must have been at Speculum Musicae’s second concert at New York’s Shakespeare Theatre: he would later talk about our performance of Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat – Stravinsky had just died, and we added, on short notice, the Elegy for J.F.K. and the “Tuba mirum” from the Requiem Canticles to the program.
Then came the premiere of the Duo for Violin and Piano at New York’s Cooper Union by Paul Zukovsky and Gilbert Kalish in 1975, and on a tour in Europe that summer I painstakingly learned the violin part, later to perform it many times with Ursula Oppens and Charles Rosen (my recording, on Bridge, is with Martin Goldray) and others. Elliott had heard me play Schumann’s Second Sonata at the 92nd Street Y as part of a three-recital series, and told me how he had studied the Schumann violin sonatas before writing the Duo – they are often criticized for lying too low on the violin, so Elliott wrote his Duo in the stratosphere, including the fiendish double harmonics!
After the second of those recitals, featuring the complete violin music of Stravinsky, I met his widow, Vera, and Robert Craft (with whom I would later perform Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto various times, and record Schönberg’s Violin Concerto), who had come with Elliott.
I remember fondly the many dinners at his lovely apartment, which his wife Helen would cook, and the many distinguished guests I met there, from Charles Rosen to Pierre Boulez and Heinz Holliger, Paul Jacobs et al.
Through a fluke in scheduling I gave the American premiere of Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi at the Monadnock Music Festival in New Hampshire, and later, at Carnegie’s Weill Hall, of the 4 Lauds, including Riconoscenza, and Fantasy – Remembering Roger (which I premiered at Harvard in 1999).
Elliott heard me play his Violin Concerto in Hagen (Germany) and I recorded it later with the Odense (Denmark) Symphony along with the Lauds (on Bridge).
The most recent recording was of two of the Tre Duetti for violin and cello which Elliott wrote for Fred Sherry and me.
The long list of Elliott’s works, solo or ensemble, will keep us occupied for the rest of our lives.