I have often felt when reading about long-dead composers that they had been extremely interesting in their music, but not necessarily in their lives. However, it was Elliott’s own interest in every aspect of living and of history that made his music so full of both variety and vitality. The strong individuality of each line of music, whether one of several voices played by a single instrument or of different instruments complementing one another in a larger work, was an expression of this interest in the complexity of human history. And as if the instruments themselves were sentient beings, with desires to express themselves, Elliott’s music opened the doors of their cages. From the full pianistic resonance of the opening of the Piano Sonata to the arpeggiated harpsichord chords of the Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord, to the flourishes of the third movement of the Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, to the unapologetic virtuosity of Bariolage and Caténaires, it was as if the instruments themselves were running riot. And then they would show off the most difficult, gymnastic maneuvers they could possibly perform: the harmonics in the Duo for Violin and Piano, the perfect fifths in Figment II for Cello.
Knowing Elliott, benefitting from his wisdom and his wit, was the lighthouse beacon of my life. His joy in his friends, in travel, in reading, and his interest in all the music of others was the example one wished to follow.
Practicing his music always has made me happy. Now, in these months following his death, I have been practicing his music almost non-stop – and his ability to create happiness is as strong as ever.