Top of page

The Elliott Carter Collection at the Library of Congress

Share this post:

The following is a guest post from Music Specialist David H. Plylar.

Elliot Carter from “The musical languages of Elliott Carter” by Charles Rosen. (Washington, DC: Music Division, Research Services, Library of Congress, 1984). Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

We were all saddened by the loss on Monday of the great American composer Elliott Carter, who passed away at the age of 103. A colleague of mine mentioned that given Carter’s nonstop productivity, we were all unconsciously assuming that he was eternal. Carter’s legacy is such that there is little doubt that his music will continue to thrive, both in performance and as a focus of scholarship.

Many notices about Mr. Carter’s passing suggest that his music is exceptionally complex and inscrutable except by those who attend to it with great care, perhaps implying a fault therein. Elliott Carter composed music that was true to himself, which is both admirable and essential for any artist. I would venture that his music is vital and exciting, to be enjoyed and respected on many levels; that it offers even richer rewards to the careful listener is due to its depth of conception and virtuosity of execution. All composers should strive to achieve at such a level, in their own manner.

This seems an opportune moment to share some information about the significant holdings of Elliott Carter’s manuscripts, sketches and other materials held at the Library of Congress. Encompassing a range of items dating from between 1932 and 1971, the collection contains holograph manuscripts and some 18,000 pages of sketches to some of Carter’s most important works from this period.

Below is a brief summary of our manuscript/sketch collection:

Collection of exercises [1932-5]
Tarantella, finale to Mostellaria [1936]
Pocahontas, first version [1936]
Pocahontas [1939]
Suite from Pocahontas [1939]
To Music [1936]
Women’s chorus from John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera: Act II, Scene IV (newly set by Carter) [1937]
Heart Not So Heavy As Mine for SATB chorus [1938]
Prelude, Fanfare and Polka [1938, rev. 1952]
Fanfare, revised [1939]
Canonic Suite for four alto saxophones, plus sketches [1939, 1945, 1950]
Piece for woodwind quintet [1940]
Pastoral for English horn (or viola, or clarinet) and piano [1940, 1945]
The Defense of Corinth for speaker, men’s chorus and piano 4-hands [1941]
Symphony No. 1, including sketches, rejected pages [1942, rev. 1961]
Symphony No. 1, piano arrangement of movements II and III [1942]
Warble for Lilac Time for soprano or tenor and piano/orchestra; original and several revised versions [1942, rev. 1943 and 1955]
Elegy (Adagio) in versions for cello and piano, string quartet, string orchestra and viola and piano [1943, arr.1946 (rev. 1950), 1952 (rev. 1953), 1961]
Prelude for viola and piano [1943]
The Harmony of Morning, plus sketches [1944]
Musicians Wrestle Everywhere for SSATB chorus [1945, also in version with string orchestra accompaniment]
Holiday Overture, plus revision [1944, rev. 1960]
Piano Sonata, with sketches [194?-1946]
Emblems for men’s chorus (TTBB) and piano, plus sketches [1947]
The Minotaur, suite plus sketches [1947]
Woodwind Quintet, plus sketches [1948]
Sonata for violoncello and piano, plus sketches [1948]
Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for woodwind quartet, plus sketches [1949]
Six pieces for kettledrums, later incorporated into Eight Pieces for Four Timpani and published as a full set in 1966 [1950]
String Quartet No. 1, plus sketches [1951]
Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord, sketches [1952]
Variations for Orchestra, plus sketches [1954-5]
String Quartet No. 2 [1959]
Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano, plus sketches [1961]
Piano Concerto [1965]
An early eight-page version of Carter’s Harmony Book [1965]
Concerto for Orchestra [1969]
String Quartet No. 3, plus sketches [1970-1]
For more information about the Library’s holdings of Elliott Carter’s music and materials, please explore the following links, and search the Library’s online catalog:

Holograph Music Manuscripts of Elliott Carter (1932-1971)—a brief description of the collection

“The way it all goes along: a tribute to Elliott Carter”—an article by retired music specialist Stephen Soderberg

The Musical Languages of Elliott Carter – a book written by Charles Rosen and published by the Music Division in 1984 (includes a guide to Elliott Carter research materials in the Music Division of the Library of Congress, written by Morgan Cundiff)

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *