Elliott Carter, who lived to the ripe old age of 103 and remained creative to the end, was a towering figure in American modernism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
One of the most prominent works of Carter’s early maturity is the Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras (1959–1961), which Stravinsky, among others, regarded as a masterpiece. The structure and musical material of the work are organised in a number of different ways, linking it to post-serialism.
The two solo instruments are each accompanied by their own chamber ensemble. They are spatially separated, and they differ in their musical material too. The harpsichord and its ensemble have certain favourite intervals (minor seconds, minor thirds, fourths, augmented fourths, minor sixths, minor sevenths and minor ninths) and rhythmic peculiarities which the piano and its ensemble avoid. Carter stressed that in addition to the differences in material, both groups have their own behavioural pattern.
The result is highly complex, tumultuous and edgy but also intense. The complexity of the idiom is balanced by the relatively straightforward symmetrical structure in seven sections: introduction, harpsichord cadenza, Allegro scherzando, slow middle section dominated by winds (Adagio), Presto section, piano cadenza (partly involving the ensembles and harpsichord) and a concluding coda.
Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi