Jay Gottlieb: named official pianist by the U.S. State Department to represent his country worldwide, Jay Gottlieb was born in New York. He studied at the Juilliard School and Harvard University, and in France with Nadia Boulanger, Olivier Messiaen, Yvonne Loriod, Robert Casadesus, and in Germany with Aloys Kontarsky. Many composers have written works for him.
What works by Carter will you be playing in this recital?
My recital in homage to Carter will include Two Diversions (1999), Homecoming (2000), Intermittences (2005), Catenary (2006), and Matribute (2007). It is simple to see that these are his last five works for piano, right up until last year with the charming Matribute, written for the mother (whence the humorous title “Ma + Tribute”) of the conductor James Levine..
How did you choose the other composers included in this evening? According to similarities or oppositions?
Especially in keeping with affiliations, links. As one knows, Carter is viscerally tied to France: he learned French at a young age, and studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger; he is a longtime friend of Pierre Boulez, dedicatee and creator of several of his works, and the three composers in the second part of my program – Messiaen, Dutilleux, Jolas – figure in Carter’s personal pantheon on both a musical and human level. In the first part, my inclusion of works by Charles Ives and Henry Cowell represents a return to Carter’s beginnings when, at the age of 17, he had the privilege of meeting the great Charles, who immediately recognized his talent and encouraged him as a composer. Ives even wrote a letter of recommendation for his admission as a student at Harvard University. Above and beyond this almost paternal relationship, the music of Ives, with its extraordinary tonal, rhythmic and spatial freedom, remained a major influence. As for Henry Cowell, perhaps the person closest to Ives, he was for Carter a good friend and colleague.
What is the role of Carter in American music today? Is it not overshadowed by the minimalist composers, in particular?
As with any phenomenon, it is and will always be a question of sunrises and sunsets over successive styles and modes of expression. Indeed, one of the great lessons of Charles Ives is that everything has its importance, that everything contributes to the famous “Over-soul” spoken of by the American Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau …), central to the thinking of Ives and of America in general. The “minimalists” and the “maximalists” both have the right to exist, to co-exist, and everyone finds what suits them, in one or the other, or both.
Does a 100-year-old composer have a greater chance than others to influence new generations?
For me, the value of such a composer is the possibility to measure a long evolution over time, and in what ways it is articulated. While in the past, Carter seemed obsessed by the notion of the opposition of opposites, over the last decades, he has shown, on the contrary, a concern for the unity of elements, no matter how complex. He shares the view of the Italian poet Eugenio Montale, whose poems have, in fact, been set to music by Carter, who speaks of time in terms of parallel paths that rarely intersect. But when those paths cross, the observer – or the listener – experiences their intersection as a single moment, which produces the negation of their multiplicity. However, in the experience of this moment, the observer / listener perceives only “addio” (farewell) as possible, and not “arrivederci” (goodbye). In more recent works, one can detect a greater luminosity, much humor, a fabulous freedom of approach(es) which should serve as inspiration for any young composer who is searching, tormented, who does everything to please rather than produce his truth with nothing to prove.
Interview by L.B., September 25, 2008
Translated from the French original, “Hommage à Elliott Carter à la Fondation des Etats-Unis, Paris,” from Anaclase.com