20 Sep 2013

Carter – Flute Concerto

by Jeff Counts

Instrumentation: flute (doubles piccolo), oboes (doubles English horn), 2 clarinets (2nd doubles bass clarinet), bassoon (doubles contrabassoon), 2 horns, trumpet, trombone, timpani, maracas, xylophone, temple blocks, wood blocks, bongos, snare drum, tom-toms, cymbals, vibraphone, bass drum, harp, piano, strings.

Duration:  13 minutes.

THE COMPOSER – ELLIOTT CARTER (1908-2012) – Carter was one of the most influential and important voices in American music history. His compositional career spanned more than 75 years and he continued to produce right up to his death in 2012. Among the works Carter created after his 100th birthday were the Flute Concerto (2008), the Concertino for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra (2009), Instances (2012) and Epigrams (2012).  

THE HISTORY – The Flute Concerto was written as a co-commission for the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the traditional concerto instruments, Carter had already composed feature works for wind instrumentalists (clarinet, oboe and horn). He was reluctant before 2008 to add flute to the list and his comments on this piece explain why. “For many years flutists have been asking for a flute concerto, yet I kept putting it off because I felt that the flute could not produce the sharp attacks that I use so frequently. But the idea of the beautiful qualities of the different registers of the instrument and the extraordinary agility attracted me more and more, so when Elena Bashkirova asked me to write something for her and the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, I decided it would be a flute concerto. From mid-September, 2007 to March, 2008 ideas and notes for it fascinated me without relief.” The world premiere performance took place at the festival in 2008 with Emmanuel Pahud as soloist and Daniel Barenboim on the podium. As a representation of Carter’s late (very late) period works, the Flute Concerto has many of the hallmarks – the transparent textures, the rather small ensemble and the general feeling of playfulness – that confirmed him still, at 101 years of age, as an inexhaustible source of contemporary ingenuity.  

THE WORLD – Recession fears caused stock markets around the world to plunge in 2008. Also in 2008, Fidel Castro stepped down as President of Cuba, Vladimir Putin was replaced by Dmitry Medvedev as Russian President and British author Arthur C. Clarke died.

THE CONNECTION – These concerts represent the Utah Symphony premiere of Elliott Carter’s Flute Concerto.