It is probably unique in the history of music that a prominent composer would live to celebrate his own 100th birthday in good health and as productive as ever. That happened in 2008 to the American Elliott Carter, who still composed many inspired new works during his tenth and eleventh decades. One of the composer’s greatest champions for many years was Daniel Barenboim, who conducted the premieres of many of Carter’s works, including his only opera, What Next?. According to Barenboim, Carter is unique in his ability to combine such different models as Schoenberg and Stravinsky in his music. He also admires Carter’s commitment to music of uncompromising substance. At the same time, says Barenboim, “As complex as his music may be, it is always ‘in good humor’. If Haydn were alive today, he might compose like Carter did in his last years.”
During a concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker in June 2009 Barenboim conducted the Flute Concerto and the Dialogues for Piano and Orchestra, which, in contrast to some of his highly complex earlier works, represent the composer’s more accessible late style. The soloists for the premieres of the two concertos are also heard on this recording. Nicolas Hodges gave the premiere of the Piano Concerto in 2004, and Emmanuel Pahud, principal flute of the Berliner Philharmoniker, played the Flute Concerto for the first time under Barenboim in Jerusalem in September 2008. Two tone poems by the young Richard Strauss provide a contrast to these works, which Carter composed at the age of 90. Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks concentrate less on expression but instead display youthful energy, an admirable command of the art of orchestration and, not least, joy in sweeping listeners off their feet.