Charles Rosen performing Elliott Carter’s “Night Fantasies” (part 1 of 2)

Carter’s irrefutable masterpiece for the piano, Night Fantasies, composed from 1979-80. Performed here by Charles Rosen. (A note regarding the score and the performance: the score here is the revised version [from 1995, I believe,] and Rosen’s recording is from 1982). 

"Night Fantasies is a piano piece of continuously changing moods, suggesting the fleeting thoughts and feelings that pass through the mind during a period of wakefulness at night. The quiet, nocturnal evocation with which it begins and returns occasionally, is suddenly broken by a flight series of short phrases that emerge and disappear. This episode is followed by many others of contrasting characters and lengths that sometimes break in abruptly and, at other times, develop smoothly out of what has gone before. The work culminates in a loud, obsessive, periodic repetition of an emphatic chord that, as it dies away, brings the work to its conclusion.

In this score, I wanted to capture the fanciful, changeable quality of our inner life at a time when it is not dominated by strong directive intentions or desires — to capture the poetic moodiness that, in an earlier romantic context, I enjoy in works of Robert Schumann like Kreisleriana, Carnaval, and Davidsbündlertänze.”

—Elliott Carter

"To this, I might add just a few observations. Night Fantasies is full of melody, even some long melodic lines, but it has no themes, and no motifs—no tune is ever played twice. Textures recur, however, and so do certain intervals and chords, each with a recognizable periodic interval of its own. The rhythms belong to two sequences, which are almost incompatible with each other: the basic ratio is 24 to 25; we hear the rhythms that begin together, draw gradually apart, and then return. This means that the rhythm of the bar lines can never be heard in this piece, and that gives the work its impression of improvisation and freedom. In its variety of moods and expression—lyric, satiric, brutal, dramatic, contemplative and light-hearted—it is perhaps the most extraordinary large keyboard work written since the death of Ravel."

— Charles Rosen (from the liner notes to the Bridge CD “Elliott Carter: The Complete Music for Piano”).

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