Discipline: Music Composition

Elliott Carter

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: New York, NY

Edward MacDowell Medalist: 1983

Elliott Carter (1908-2012) was an American composer who was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s, then returned to the United States. After an early neoclassical phase, he developed a personal harmonic and rhythmic language. His compositions are known and performed throughout the world; they include orchestral, chamber music, solo instrumental, and vocal works.

Born in New York City, Elliott Carter was encouraged towards a career in classical music by his friend and mentor Charles Ives. He studied under composers Walter Piston and Gustav Holst while attending Harvard University, and later traveled to Paris, studying with Nadia Boulanger. Following his studies in France, he returned to New York and devoted his time to composing and teaching, holding posts over the years at St. John’s College, the Peabody Conservatory, Yale University, Cornell University, and The Juilliard School, among others.

Carter’s early works, such as his Symphony No. 1 (1942) and Holiday Overture (1944), are written in a neoclassical style — influenced by his contemporaries Copland, Hindemith, and Stravinsky. After the Second World War, in works such as his Cello Sonata (1948) and String Quartet No. 1 (1950-51) he began to develop a signature rhythmic and harmonic language, which he continued to refine to the very end of his life. Igor Stravinsky hailed his Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano, and two chamber orchestras (1961) and Piano Concerto (1965) as “masterpieces.”