Warm, romantic, witty and wry are not terms usually associated with the music of Elliott Carter, but that is the best way to describe the music on this recording. Carter is the dean of American composers and his music impresses with its probing intellect and rhythmic complexity. Mostly known for his instrumental music, this recording presents a rare opportunity to hear some of Carter's early choral works, mostly written for amateur choirs and consequently simpler in style. Dating from the 1930s and 40s, many of the works on the recording are world premieres.
This is a consistently rewarding recording filled with surprises and excellent performances by the John Oliver Chorale. For example 'Heart Not So Heavy As Mine' and 'Musicians Wrestle Everywhere' are both settings of Emily Dickinson poems in which Carter slowly weaves independent vocal lines to create a sound that is not unlike a Renaissance madrigal. On a larger, more complex scale is the witty 'The Defense of Corinth' set to a text by Rabelais and scored for speaker, men's chorus and two pianos. The men deliver a masterful performance of this tricky piece that requires singing, speaking, whispering and hissing.