2008 marks the centennial of two of the most iconoclastic and influential composers of the twentieth century, both of whom have significant ties to New York. French composer, teacher and organist Olivier Messiaen premiered From the Canyons to the Stars... in Alice Tully Hall, and wrote Eclairs Sur l'au-Dela on commission for the New York Philharmonic in 1992, his last completed work. Next month, Carnegie takes up the mantle with a multimedia presentation of the Turangalîla-Symphonie by the Saint Louis Symphony and David Robertson, who will no doubt offer the same warmth and insight he offered two weeks ago in LA. A week later, Weill Hall will host a full Messiaen Discovery Day, including a conversation with Messiaen's prodigal pupil Pierre Boulez and a performance of Visions de l'Amen for two pianos. Tickets are $9. (It comes as no surprise that the NY Phil has no plans to participate in the festivities: when they last performed Eclairs sur l'au-Dela, in 2005, I was one of only 500 or so still in AFH by the end.)
Lifelong New Yorker Elliott Carter was born exactly one day after Messiaen in 1908. Remarkably, Carter is not only still alive, but still composing: just two months ago, the Boston Symphony Orchestra gave the premiere of his Horn Concerto; there will be no fewer than six additional works premiered this year. Carter, a former protege of Charles Ives who used to write pieces so rugged and dissonant they bordered on cacophony, has embraced less complex, more accessible textures in his maturity, to generally wide acclaim.
As for local Carter tributes: all next week, Juilliard is hosting an "All About Elliott" festival, culminating in a performance by the Juilliard Orchestra next Saturday, with James Levine conducting. On Wednesday, the Pacifica Quartet is performing Carter's complete string quartets at the New York Society of Ethical Culture. This summer, Levine has devoted Tanglewood's entire Festival of Contemporary Music (July 20-24) to Carter's music, including several U.S. and world premieres. And in December, Carter will celebrate his 100th birthday in Carnegie Hall, with the New York premiere of his Interventions for piano and orchestra, featuring Daniel Barenboim, Levine and the BSO. (Picture of Elliott and I from Tanglewood last summer after the jump.)
For anyone who happens to live in London, the Southbank Center is hosting a year-long Messiaen festival, curated by pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard; check out the attached video. And, talk about a double-feature: in December, Aimard, Boulez, and the Ensemble Intercontemporain perform tribute concerts to both Messiaen and Carter on their respective birthdays (December 10 and 11).