(Re)View: Carter: "Pocahontas"

Elliott Carter and Pocahontas. Not necessarily a connection that anyone who was around in the mid-1990s would make. However, in 1936 the young composer was hard at work on his first ballet, bringing the Pocahontas story to life long before Disney. Commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein's traveling ballet company Ballet Caravan, this first of two Carter ballets was an integral part of Kirstein's desire to bring ballet to America - not just New York City, but the vast land beyond. As a distinctly American story with a rugged neo-classical score, POCAHONTAS captures the adventuresome spirit of the settlers arriving in unknown lands and the compassion of the original Americans. Written and rewritten between 1936 and 1939, the voyage of the ballet POCAHONTAS was nearly as exciting as that of Pocahontas herself. Part of the initial incarnation of the ballet was eventually added to Carter's SYMPHONY NO. 1. A piano version surfaced in Keene, NH, in August 1936, only to disappear again for 3 years. The complete POCAHONTAS ballet premiered on 24 May 1939 in New York City on the same program as Copland's new ballet BILLY THE KID, and then joined a number of other new American ballets on the Ballet Caravan tour of the US. Reworked into a slightly shorter (20') suite in 1941, POCAHONTAS moved away from the ballet stage and now also stands on its own as a concert work (and even survived a trip to England, unlike its namesake). The SUITE FROM POCAHONTAS was recorded in 2001 by the American Composers Orchestra with Paul Lustig Dunkel on CRI. --------------------------------------------- Elliott Carter (b. 1908) POCAHONTAS (1939) 22' 3222/4331/4timp.perc/hp.pf/str; 2-pf score available Ballet legend in one act. POCAHONTAS, SUITE FROM THE BALLET (1939/61) 20' 3222/4331/4timp.perc/hp.pf/str While I was a student in Paris the choreographer George Balanchine had two weeks of Balanchine ballets in the Champs Élysée. A man I'd known in college, Lincoln Kirstein was very much impressed by this and it was he that got George Balanchine to come over to the United States and start the New York City Ballet. In the early days, I was a musical advisor to that for a while. I was commissioned actually to write one ballet for them, which was done in 1939 on the subject of Pocahontas." — Elliott Carter --------------------------------------------- Turning 97 on 11 December, Carter is in the midst of many celebrations, including BBC Symphony Orchestra presentation of “Get Carter: The music of Elliott Carter” in January 2006.

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