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Too much has been made of Carter's complexity, I think. An analysis can help one appraciate the thought that went into the music -- as it can with Beethoven -- but of course is no substitute for the music itself. After a while, I find the best way to approach Carter is just to lay the books aside and listen, and then listen again. Bagatallen gets it right in saying Carter has never saccrificed the beautiful to the cerebral, but even he falls into the trap of focusing on the intellectualism and the "algorithms." (All music relies on algorithms. In tonal music of the common practice period, the choice of one chord limits the selection of chords that may follow. This is known as voice leading.) But you know all this stuff.

What Next? contains some lovely vocal counterpoint and pretty instrumental writing -- esp the English horn interlude. The story helps to keep things focused, too, although whenever I've read adverse criticism of the work, Griffith's libretto has been the cause of it. For me, the highlight of the disk is the lively little ASKO Concerto, a short, ebullient chamber symphony. That alone is worth the price of the disk.

You might want to look into a couple of other accessible, lovely and shorter pieces among Carter's recent output. I liked the Oboe Quartet and he Quintet for Piano and String Quartet the first time I heard them, and I haven't tired of them since. Both have been recorded.


Thanks for the suggestions, both in "how to" and "what to."

I will say that Carter's Night Fantasies is the work of his I favor most. I liked something about it immediately and then deepened my response by listening repeatedly.

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