Elliott Carter

American composer

Elliott Carter (December 11, 1908 – November 5, 2012) was an American composer. He is one of the most important composers of classical music of his time. He experimented with new ideas of composition. He lived to be 103 years old and continued composing all his life. He recently composed a piece called Interventions for Piano and Orchestra which was given its first performance in the Symphony Hall, Boston where it was played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine with the pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist. The same players played it again a week later on December 11, 2008 in the Carnegie Hall, New York to celebrate Carter's 100th birthday.

Elliott Carter was born in New York. The composer Charles Ives noticed his talent and gave him encouragement, taking him to concerts. Carter studied English and music at Harvard University. He then went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, returning to the US in 1935 where he directed the Ballet Caravan.

In 1939 he married. The couple had one son.

He wrote a ballet called Pocahontas. In 1940 the suite from this ballet got him the Juilliard Publication Award. From then on his got many more important awards and prizes for his music.

Carter has taught music and other related subjects in a number of well-known places including the Peabody Conservatory, Columbia University, Queen’s College, New York, Yale University and the Julliard School. He has received honorary doctorates from many universities and honours from many countries.

He has not written a large number of compositions, but the ones he has written are important works.

He died at his home in New York on November 5, 2012.

When Carter went to study in Paris in the early 1930s Stravinsky was the most famous composer who worked there. Carter was influenced to some extent by Stravinsky’s music as well as by that of his friend Charles Ives, but he worked hard to find a style of his own. Some of his music during the Second World War is quite tonal, but his later music uses more atonality (music not in any key) and has complicated rhythms. His best known works include the Variations for Orchestra (1954-5); the Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras (1959-61); the Piano Concerto (1964-65), written as an 85th birthday present for Igor Stravinsky; the Concerto for Orchestra (1969) and A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976).

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