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Elliott Carter Works for the Cello

Sonata for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord (1952)
A 6 letter letter for cello (1996)
Enchanted Preludes for flute and cello (1988)
Sonata for cello and piano (1948)
Con leggerezza pensosa for clarinet, violin and cello. Homage to Italo Calvino (1990)
Canon for 3 In memoriam Igor Stravinsky for 3 equal instrumental voices (1971)
Canon for 4-Hommage to William (Glock) for flute, bass clarinet, violin and cello (1984)
Figment for solo cello (1995)
Elegy by Igor Stravinsky for Cello (1944)
Figment II for solo cello (2001)
Adagio (Elegy) for cello and piano (1939)

Alexis Descharmes cello
Sebastien Vichard piano and harpsichord
Jean-Luc Menet & Mario Caroli flute
Helene Devilleneuve oboe
Nicolas Baldeyrou clarinet
Nicolas Miribel violin

Assai 22602-MU750 (TT 73.40)

A collection of pieces by Elliott Carter from 1939 to 2001 and centred on the cello playing of Alexis Descharmes, who also wrote the informative booklet that accompanies the disc and also adapted the 6 letter letter piece from the original for French horn.

Although the disc contains some fascinating short pieces, particularly Fragment II and Enchanted Preludes for flute and cello, inevitably the main focus is on the two most well known pieces: the Sonata for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord and the sonata for cello and piano, both ‘early’ successes for the composer the sonata for cello and piano an enduring masterpiece.

Both these works are extremely well performed. In the harpsichord quartet, the rousing percussiveness of the first movement and jazziness of the cello part in the second are vividly brought out. The final movement catches the dancing nature of the rhythms.

The expressiveness and big romantic tone that Alexis Descharmes brings to the cello sonata allows for the type of realisation of musical ideas that the composer has discussed in connection with this sonata - the distinction that is created between the chronometric time ( in the piano part) and the psychological time (in the cello part).

Mark Dennis

© Peter Grahame Woolf