LITTLE GREENE SCHOOLHOUSE PROFESSORS ATTEND ELLIOTT CARTER 95TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT, 1/30/04
We took a cab from 31st down into the outer rim of the Lower East Side, exiting the cab at Houston and Norfolk, then making our way down Norfolk until we came to a ghost building sitting religiously high in the cold night sky. We camped under a 100-watt bulb so Professor Jordon could see the address, both of us night blind as hell. We were there. Up the steps of the old religious edifice. Once inside, and it was ballsy cold in the lobby of the church, I noticed the carvings on a marble wall just inside the front door on which someone was doing some restoration were Hebrew. It had been a synagogue.
It was too early to go in, tickets were $25 for the women's section of the synagogue, the balcony; $45 for the auditorium floor-level seats. Professor Jordon was going for the balcony, but Professor Mike Greene came through with the extra bucks and the boys were allowed onto the main floor.
Finally, they let us go to our seats, a little before eight, and Professor Jordon headed right for the front. I mean, it was as though we were sitting in the performers. Professor Greene chickened out and coax Prof Jordon to sit in the second row. The seats we had were quickly grabbed up by a couple dandy fellows who soon got into an argument, one of them, shaved head, said it was too close and he wanted to move, he was looking over toward the outward seats. The one sitting in front of Doug said hell no they were there for good or the other one could go sit on a tack. He stayed.
The first piece was Carter's Scrivo in Vento, written in 1991. It is for solo flute, or flute alone, as the highbrow's used to say, and was dutifully performed by flautist Cecile Daroux, who I dug, not only because she was physically attractive, like Lucy Lawless, but also she had her score spread out full horizontally and as she played it, she moved down the score, moving along with the notes. It was cool. You could tacitly read the score with her.
This was a sonnet by Petrarch, "writing on the wind." The program author states that the title is "an apt description of a certain suspended lightness, a thinning of texture, that characterize Carter's recent style." Grammar is wrong, characterize should be plural, or else the subject is "suspended lightness" and "a thinning of texture," then characterize can be left singular.
Miss Daroux's playing of this piece reminded me of Varese, as maybe that was Carter's intention, since Varese had a direction in his music that impressed even the likes of Charles Parker Jr. to the point he wanted to study theory with him. Wonder if Parker ever played a flute? I am sure he tried it. Professor Greene had experience playing a flute, many years ago, and had not found it a difficult instrument to learn, the hardest part of playing one being keeping the it pure of tone, which it had to be, I understand, in order to play Varese's flute piece named for the purity of the metal in it...can't recall the purity of the metal right now, but it is the name of the piece.
Then came Carter's Oboe Quartet, written in 2001 for oboeist Heinz Holliger, and played for us by Robert Ingliss. I read Ingliss's score from where I sat...the oboe parts, easy to follow, except I couldn't read the pencilled marginalia or see the measures of rest, etc. But it was fun following Ingliss as he played blitzkreig chess with the three strings, violin, viola, and cello. This was a fine piece and was played very well by members of the Arditti Quartet, including violinist and leader, Irvine Arditti, violist, Ralf Ehlers, and cellist, Rohan de Saram. Arditti is a fine lead violin, conducting as he plays the lead. Wonderful timing exhibited by the performers during this piece. I especially watched Ingliss keeping time with his whole body, his head the metronome, his arms funneling the passion of his mind's reading. A hearty job of tangling and untangling furious chords, mapping ahead lulls, and inserting single-note reiterations, picking at the embedded times...Carter's impish playing with the very essence of time, as though pushing it up then pulling it back and that way manipulating it, as the program says, "stretching to reach regions of intense meditation, moments when time is brought almost (but never quite) to a complete standstill." That's an interesting concept, don't you think? This piece and the performance of it were given a rousing audience response that lasted a hell of a long time. The musicians did a masterful job on this piece.