thumbnail of Contemporary Music in Evolution; 30; 1960
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
There is one work left over from one thousand sixty that I'd like to play for you and that is Leon coersion is going Choto for violin cello ten winds and percussion. And as it happens it programs very nicely with the work by Elliott Carter his recent double concerto because both works were not only premiered together on the same program but are now issued on the same recording. Because of programming and financial economic factors the instrumentation of both pieces is quite similar and has many common features and both are of course concertos in one way or another. The Latter-Day concerto is in conception to be sure. And very interestingly enough neither is 12 tone or serial in structure at least not in the strict sense that these terms have come to be used lately. But there are the similarities between the two works stop
question as composition which we'll hear first tonight is related to past traditions in a much more obvious way than Carter's piece in terms of sonority pitch organization and general continuity. Question is country to harks back to the worlds of Schoenberg and Baird and on a few occasions even beyond that is further back. Question of late has become very concerned over what he calls a lack of rootedness in a lot of recent music and this concerto of his is certainly his answer his own personal musical answer to this problem. A statement which he has used in connection with this concerto is indicative of this attitude which is so completely reflected in the work. I quote Leon Kirshner once music progresses in the sense that it makes obsolete previous and Evers. Then we have submitted tragically not to science but to the trivial breeze of technology.
The true musical achievement becomes mere advance in the technological sense and the work of art itself is lost in the process. This attitude of consciously continuing a previous previous tradition is reflected in many ways in this country. First of all as I said in the very Berrigan romantic expressive language a language not entirely removed incidentally from tonality. Secondly in the formal plan of the Contro we see the same kind of attitude reflected the formal plan being full of Recapitulations and developments in the old sense. The rhythmic continuity is pretty simple and straightforward and there is even an old fashioned cadenza for the solo violins and a violin and cello which cadenza sports some fairly conventional 19th century cadenza devices cadenza gestures. None the less a person is going to show within its own self-imposed limits is a
beautifully constructed work of great expressiveness and maturity. Unlike a lot of most recent music in terms of technique and radical conceptions its aims are obviously much more modest and thus it is operating also on a much safer ground so to speak. And since Kirshner is one of our better composers the results are bound to be fairly impressive. At least they are in this work in which the composer has clearly found his musical Naish and there is no apparent discrepancy between technique and content there is no struggle between language and conception. For some people there is probably the other side of the coin namely that nothing ventured nothing gained. I personally would not apply that harsher verdict to this concerto and despite certain obvious ideas certain obvious moments in the work. It is a work which I basically continue to enjoy hearing.
Let's listen to Leon Kirshner's concerto for violin cello 10 wins and percussion and the soloist KOSKY violin and alto party so the cellist and the composer is conducting his own work very well by the way. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The only. Thing. Think.
I'm with. With. Her.
The bad. News. Yeah.
Yeah yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Yes. I am. And. The boy. I
am. Yes.
The end. Thank. You.
OK. Thank. You.
If that was Leon Kirshner's concerto for violin cello 10 winds and percussion with the soloist KOSKY and all the parasol and Leon question-I himself conducting. Elliot Carter's Double Concerto for harpsichord and piano with two chamber orchestras and that is its full title is a much more complex and sophisticated work. It represents the other side of the proverbial proverbial coin that I mentioned earlier. It is a marvel of detailed musical construction and planning. It explores every possible vertical and horizontal formal and textural internal structural relationship imaginable. It is in other words a brilliant intellectual achievement in the best sense of the word. But I have felt every time I've heard this piece some seven or eight times by now that it's somehow
chewed off more than it could swallow. I could be quite wrong about this of course. I have not yet had the opportunity to study the score for example and I have a sneaking suspicion that the performance on this recording though remarkable as such things go is not altogether reliable in several crucial respects especially in respect to the problem of instrumental and temporal balance. This balance problem happens to be the main problem for the listener as well as the performer. In Carter's double concerto and I have the distinct impression that many of the balance problems created in this work are not resolvable because they were created by structural ideas and structural forces within the particularly compositional process chosen by Carter. Let us even call them strictures which inhibit the balancing of dynamic and temporal proportions. I have the definite feeling in other words that certain structural ideas and abstract
outlines lead to Carter at various points along the line into dead ends which created terminal and complex problems of instrumental choice and registration from which there was often no way out. The first pitfall perhaps was the almost insurmountable problem of balancing the two solo instruments a harpsichord against the piano each with a large string wind and percussion ensemble supporting it and the two ensembles pitted against each other. To put it quite simply and bluntly graphically one cymbal stroke or a snare drum roll can drown out a whole measure of harpsichord figuration. So can a figure on the piano that happens to occur simultaneously. Carter was of course aware of this and struggled valiantly with the problem. But I think not always successfully on this recording at least microphone techniques allowed for certain artificial rebalancing of dynamic
levels. So the recording is basically greatly improved over what one hears in actual live performances. But I find other aspects of the work equally unresolved. There is such a welter of detail that one often cannot see the forest for all the trees. And as a result despite a great deal of activity musical activity and a great deal of ingenuity and imaginative detail ultimately things we can begin to cancel each other out in the work and the kind of unexpected unplanned static quality ensues. And for me this undermines the piece not completely of course but some extent and at various moments and in greater or lesser degrees. But as I say this is still a superficial interim reaction of mine and I could be group proven quite wrong and in fact I hope that I may be so proven. Carter is a remarkable composer and I like to think that the burden of proof is more likely to be
on us the listener than on he the composer. Here is Elliot Carter's Double Concerto for harpsichord and piano with two chamber orchestras with Ralph Kirkpatrick as the harpsichord is Charles Rosen the pianist and Gustav Meyer as conductor.
But. Yeah. Through it. Yes.
You're. Angry.
The book. To. Louie. Louie.
Do. Do do.
For. Us. The end.
Contemporary Music in Evolution
Episode Number
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-kw57jg1r).
Other Description
Contemporary Music in Evolution is a radio program hosted by Gunther Schuller, which traces the evolution of Western classical music from 1899 to 1961. Each episode focuses on a specific year and chronicles some of the significant works, schools, and composers of the time. Schuller introduces several performance recordings in each episode, and gives commentary and analysis that also touch on previous episodes.
Recorded Music
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Schuller, Gunther
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 64-36-30 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:50:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Contemporary Music in Evolution; 30; 1960,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 26, 2021,
MLA: “Contemporary Music in Evolution; 30; 1960.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 26, 2021. <>.
APA: Contemporary Music in Evolution; 30; 1960. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from