Check it out
Who: Soprano Lucy Shelton singing works by Elliott Carter
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9
Where: Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
Tickets: $20 general, $8 students; www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787
Soprano Lucy Shelton — an artist-in-residence with the UC Davis music department this month — will be featured in a recital of chamber works by the late American composer Elliott Carter at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center.
Carter, who was born in 1908, enjoyed a long and productive career. He was turned on to music at age 15, when he saw Pierre Monteaux conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the New York premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rite of Spring.” As a young man, he was a friend of the trail-blazing American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954).
Carter studied at Harvard, then went to Paris, where he was a student under legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger. Carter’s early compositions came out in the late 1930s, and he continued to write a broad range of choral, orchestral and chamber works for decades.
He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music twice — in 1960 for his Second String Quartet and in 1973 for his Third String Quartet. Carter wrote musical settings of texts by numerous poets. He also taught at prominent institutions including Yale and Juilliard.
Carter experienced a remarkable creative burst in his old age, publishing more than 50 new works after he turned 90. The Boston Symphony Orchestra honored him on his 100th birthday (as did other ensembles). Carter died at age 103 in November 2012.
Shelton, a California native and a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, was a friend of Carter’s. She will perform a Carter piece titled “La Musique,” which originated when Carter and Shelton met for tea in 2008.
Shelton mentioned that she was researching songs with text by the French poet Baudelaire, and she hadn’t found many arrangements that she liked. Three days later, she was handed an envelope containing “La Musique,” which Carter had composed for Shelton after they had finished their conversation over tea.
“I was amazed and honored,” Shelton said in her program note.
Shelton also will sing Carter’s setting of the Hart Crane poem “Voyage.” She was introduced to the piece by her vocal teacher and mentor Jan de Gaetani at the Aspen festival in 1972.
“It was the first Carter song I performed. … I marveled at Carter’s musical language, which seemed both vulnerable and majestic,” Shelton wrote in her program note.
In addition, Shelton will perform Carter’s 1994 song cycle “Of Challenge and Love,” a setting of five poems by John Hollander, which she premiered in 1995.
“Trying to put my friendship (with Carter) into words is humbling — I will always be sitting at Elliott’s feet, listening intently to his spirit, curiosity, humor, pride humility and alertness, and feel the glow of his presence,” Shelton wrote. “We won’t hear any more notes from Elliott, alas, but we’ll never stop celebrating his extraordinary life and what he has given us.”
Other Carter works on the program include his cello sonata from 1947, which will be performed by UCD faculty cellist Susan Lamb Cook and pianist Gayle Blankenburg, and “Rhapsodic Musings,” a violin piece to be performed by Mark Menzies, who also will perform his own composition written in tribute to Carter, “It was a glad allemande.”
Also on the program will be “Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok” by Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
Tickets are $20 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.