Phenomenal!

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  December 19, 2008

Levine says he loves the way Carter picks up old threads yet keeps adding surprising twists. Interventions has elements of the contrasting counterforces of the Cello Sonata, the structural interweavings of the Second and Third Quartets, the multidirectionality of the Clarinet Concerto. But "Vivent les diffûrences!" The piano and orchestra seem to be on their own emotional (and rhythmic) trajectories, each persistently interrupting the flow of the other. Sweeping strings, heart-on-sleeve, are as richly passionate as Mahler's. The piano is usually in a nervous rush (antic or frantic?), and it's flanked (embraced? buffered?) by two wind trios, intermediaries to the larger ensemble; at one uncanny moment, a disembodied muted trumpet "underlines" the piano at its most hushed, most halting. Delicate, chattering percussion (as in Tintinnabulation) circles the stage in flickering whispers. Alternately (sometimes simultaneously) nostalgic, fretful, playful, loving, frightened, Interventions ends with some sense of reconciliation, but the final loud, fist-shaking tremolo leaves you in a disturbing state of ambiguity (what Elizabeth Bishop used to call "mixty motions").

After the Friday performance, the audience was invited back to the Higginson Room for champagne and birthday cake with the composer and conductor. On December 11, Carter, Levine, Barenboim, and the orchestra would be celebrating at Carnegie Hall. The Carter events ended with two concerts sans piano: a commanding Beethoven Seventh Symphony, the ever-more-astonishing Stravinsky, and BSO principal horn James Sommerville, now as moving as he'd been brilliant, in Carter's Horn Concerto, last year's commission. Carter was clearly touched and delighted by all the tributes and the high level of playing, though he also said he was eager to get home and back to work on his "crazy new pieces."

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, the Metropolitan Opera mezzo-sopranosingerKate Lindsey was misidentified as Kate Vincent. The change has been made above.

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