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November 09, 2012

Remembering Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter passed away earlier this week, just a month shy of his 104th birthday. Kronos is honored to have known him and to have worked with him several times during his long and inspiring career. David Harrington shares his experience.

“We have always had the fondest feelings for Elliott and Helen Carter. During the 1980s we would frequently see them at our concerts. It could be Venice, Warsaw, Paris or New York. They were so energetic and enthusiastic. Usually, Elliott would have just come from teaching a young composer. There was one concert at New York’s Carnegie Recital Hall where Sting was somehow sitting next to Elliott. Helen was the one who knew the full meaning of this interesting juxtaposition.

I remember especially one rehearsal of his String Quartet No. 2 with him—it was also at the time we were making an album of the music of Thelonious Monk. We played his music slowly, trying to get it right. I noticed how Monk-like his music sounded when we played it slow and mentioned this to Elliott. He remembered hearing Monk in a club in Greenwich Village. This from the man who knew Charles Ives and so many others! Who knows how music really works?

Elliott wrote the magical and mysterious Fragment No. 1 for us in 1994 in order to honor and remember our friend, David Huntley. A truly generous man, Elliott Carter pointed the way for all musicians as he continued to write amazingly distilled, vital music into his eleventh decade. He probably set a record every time he wrote a new piece for the last twenty years. He was one-of-a-kind, made-in-America. We are honored to have known him.”

—David Harrington, 11/9/12

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