Elliott Carter

American composer (New York 1903 – New York 2012)

Elliott Carter, whose style was focused on atonality, was one of the key composers of the American music of the 20th century.

After attending Harvard and studying with Walter Piston and Gustav Holst, Elliott Carter moved to Paris in 1932, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger focusing on counterpoint,  and discovered his passion for ancient music (Perotinus, Machaut, Monteverdi, J.S. Bach). Once back in New York in 1935, he started teaching in the most prestigious schools and universities throughout America (Yale, Columbia, Cornell University, the Juilliard School). He also wrote several critical and theoretical articles on composition.

After a period of Neoclassicism influenced by the music of Stravinsky, Carter moved away from his contemporaries such as Copland and Bernstein, but also from serial and “atonal” music, drawing inspiration mainly from poetry, literature, cinema and dance.

After a 75-year career, during which he was supported and commissioned by his contemporaries, such as Pierre Boulez (for the Ensemble InterContemporain), Oliver Knussen and James Levine, as well as by a number of international ensembles, Elliott Carter kept on composing until 2012, the year of his death.

6 key works by Elliott Carter

• 1944 Holiday Overture

• 1950/1966 Eight Pieces for Four Timpani

• 1959/61 Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras 

• 1960 String Quartet No. 2

• 1973 String Quartet No. 3

• 2010–11 Two Controversies and a Conversation for piano, percussion and chamber orchestra

6 landmark dates in the life of Elliott Carter

• 1954: Awarded the Rome Prize in composition, and again in 1963

• 1971: elected as a member of the Academy of Arts, Berlin

• 1981 Awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize

• 1985: First composer to receive the National Medal of Arts

• 2009: Given the Trustees Award (a lifetime achievement award given to non-performers) by the Grammy Awards

• 2012: the French government appointed him Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur

Official website