WHRB Elliott Carter Orgy

1/23/2009
Finally WHRB, Harvard’s radio station, got around to celebrating the 100 birthday of composer and 1930 Harvard alum, Elliott Carter. The WHRB “Orgies” as they are called features an extensive and often comprehensive broadcast around a theme or particular composer, usually in chronological order. They last anywhere from a few hours to as long as two weeks. The “Elliott Carter Orgy” only lasted two days and only played selection of his complete oeuvre. It is hard for me to believe that the Harvard collection did not include more of Carter’s works. It was a good two days, although there were no surprises. Almost everything played was from currently available recordings. What was most disappointing was David Elliott’s summary at the end of the two day retrospective. David Elliott will often wax sentimental at the end of these programs, sometimes for as long as twenty minutes. Yet this time his concluding remarks were somewhat less than laudatory. Instead of apologizing for the comparatively short program celebrating an unprecedented milestone of our greatest living composer he appears to apologize for playing it at all.

“Certainly not everything was penetrable. Some things were not even palatable. But nonetheless some of the music is quite powerful and much of it has its own kind of expressivity. The experience was in many senses a unique one and one which we ourselves will take time to absorb and understand.”

Surely we could have expected something better from WHRB, the station with by far the most well-informed and progressive music audience in the Boston area. It is particularly regretful when you compare it to BBC3’s “Get Carter” festival from January 2006 which included a week of live broadcasts, lectures and films from the Barbican featuring the composer himself. In addition to concerts and lectures on Carter and his music they included music of Ives, Copland and Roger Sessions to provide context and comparison.

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~ by severalfourmany on January 23, 2009.

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