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Fall Preview | Critic's Picks

Music

September 10, 1998|MARK SWED

The fall of 1998 belongs to Elliott Carter. On Dec. 11, America's most distinguished composer turns 90, and we certainly don't need more reason than that to justify celebrations from various performance organizations around town this season. But Carter has given us more anyway. He is finishing up his eighth decade with unbelievable productivity, producing a steady stream of small occasional pieces, large orchestral masterpieces and major chamber music. At the end of his 90th year, he will unveil his first opera in Berlin.

Even more remarkable than Carter's productivity is the music itself. However admired Carter's music may be by musicians, it has not necessarily been well-loved by general audiences.

It is complicated, sometimes very complicated, as intricate and confusing as life itself. It views time realistically, in the fluid way we experience it: A lot can happen at once. Of late, however, Carter's music is different. It is still intricate and still vitalized by poetic character. But it is easier to grasp the first time around. And happily, Los Angeles will have opportunities to do just that.

On Oct. 5, Carter's Clarinet Concerto, an ingratiating burlesque written two years ago, will be given its West Coast premiere by the Nouvel Ensemble Modern during the opening program of Monday Evening Concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. On Nov. 12, Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Carter's radiant "Allegro Scorrevole," from 1997, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. On Nov. 14, Southwest Chamber Music will perform Carter's recent Mozartean Quintet for Piano and Winds, and a week later, on Nov. 22, the Arditti Quartet, joined by pianist Ursula Oppens, will introduce a brand new Carter Quintet, this for piano and string quartet in the Coleman Concerts series at Caltech, just five days after they play its world premiere in Washington.

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