Tribute to Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter – I cut my chamber music teeth on his music while I was at Juilliard and he was teaching composition there. Eight Etudes and a Fantasy, the Woodwind Quintet, the Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello & Harpsichord, and later, Enchanted Preludes; all gnarly pieces that presented a new language to a young student that would form the basis for listening and understanding the abstraction born from such a complexity of style. I was obsessed with contemporary music, and obsessed with Carter. Imagine the thrill many years later, coming to Boosey & Hawkes and representing him as his publisher on the eve of his 100th birthday. In all the years in between, I encountered his orchestral, choral, and vocal works and was constantly challenged and amazed at the dexterity of his craft and the depth of his expression.

Any tribute to Elliott will include stories of his savant-like brilliance and memory, and his great humanity and generosity of spirit. I have also been taken by his courage – his courage to never give up his purpose despite the later years of failing eyesight, difficulty walking and all the usual (!) physical impediments of centenary living. His spirit erupted music every day – days for us at Boosey brought the news of new pieces, bursting from his mind upon waking in the morning, forming the extensive output of his later years.

Elliott was, as one young composer put it, the true incarnation of the pure and great spirit of music.