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Bradley Bambarger
www.nj.com, November 2009

Unable to persuade Elgar to write a concerto for his instrument, violist Lionel Tertis transcribed the composer’s Cello Concerto. Elgar was pleased to conduct Tertis in a 1930 performance of it. New York-born viola hotshot David Aaron Carpenter, 23, has customized Tertis’ transcription and allied with conductor Christoph Eschenbach for an excellent studio recording. Carpenter’s bold viola does justice to this classic’s autumnal hues, while offering lithe phrasing few cellists can match. Alfred Schnittke was born the year Elgar died, and his 1985 Viola Concerto is a classic of another kind—a postmodern, Bach-meets-Shostakovich psychodrama. Competition is stiff here, not only from dedicatee Yuri Bashmet but from young Frenchman Antoine Tamestit, whose 2008 Ambroisie disc is an incredibly subtle marvel. But Carpenter’s darker explosiveness works, too.



Paul E. Robinson
La Scena Musicale, November 2009

Over the years many fine artists have tried to make a career as solo violists. Most have failed. There simply isn’t enough important repertoire for the instrument. There is also the problem that the instrument’s middle register character lacks the soaring upper register of the violin or the weight of the cello. The latest musician to try where others have feared to tread is the young American David Aaron Carpenter. On the strength of this recording he is a virtuoso on his instrument and a compelling musician…Carpenter is one of those violists who opts for a lean, violinistic sound…Carpenter’s preference allows him to cut through the orchestra more easily. In addition, he and Eschenbach approach the Elgar as chamber music for the most part, and are consistently sensitive to the quieter dynamics. You won’t find anything like cellist Jacqueline du Pré’s passion in the last movement but Carpenter’s restrained and poetic approach is valid too. The Schnittke Viola Concerto from 1985 is a magnificent and disturbing work, with some of the most haunting music ever written in its final pages. Soloist and conductor are ideal interpreters of the piece and the recording quality is very good.



Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times, November 2009

A star violist may be on the horizon. David Aaron Carpenter is a young American who makes his disc debut with recordings of a viola arrangement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto and of Alfred Schnittke’s Viola Concerto. Christoph Eschenbach, a champion of Carpenter, conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Elgar’s autumnal concerto floats on air in its viola arrangement, and Carpenter has a robust sound and mercurial personality. Schnittke’s concerto, which obsesses over cadences and short motifs while making radical stylist shifts, was written for the Russian virtuoso Yuri Bashmet, perhaps the most celebrated violist of our day. Carpenter goes to town with the score.



Edith Eisler
Strings Magazine, November 2009

David Aaron Carpenter is an excellent young violist. His technique is brilliant, but not showy—his tone is rich and pure. Born in New York in 1986, Carpenter has won several awards, including first prize in the 2006 Naumburg Viola Competition, and is enjoying a successful international career. There is much to recommend this debut CD.

Dedicated to enhancing the public’s appreciation of his instrument and to enriching its repertoire, he chose two innovative works for this recording: Schnittke’s Viola Concerto and Elgar’s Cello Concerto in the viola transcription by the great English violist Lionel Tertis (approved by the composer, with some emendations by Carpenter). The two works make an interesting combination, not only because Elgar (1857–1934) died the year Schnittke (1934–1998) was born, but because in some ways these two works are each other’s opposites.

Schnittke’s concerto was inspired by its dedicatee, Yuri Bashmet (one of Carpenter’s illustrious teachers). Unmistakably influenced by Shostakovich, it is full of uninhibited, obsessive emotionality, agonized outcries, and sardonic, distorted rhythms. Elgar’s, despite some moments of humor and subdued passion, is all English dignity, introspection, and melancholy expressiveness. The Elgar is intriguing, though the inevitable octave jumps are jarring and one misses those sonorous low E’s.

Carpenter’s style, especially his throbbing vibrato, is much better suited to the Schnittke: his performance eloquently captures its volatile character and mercurial moods. In the Elgar, the rhythmic liberties and dynamics are often exaggerated, and the extroverted emotional abandon runs counter to the work’s noble restraint. The buildups and climaxes are most convincing.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, October 2009

I like the way Carpenter plays; he’s a splendid player with a fine tone…Carpenter has amended some of Tertis’s luscious writing at the start of the finale; if I find him too tremulous toward the end then I find many a cellist too sentimental here as well…Still I admired the performance. The rapport is fine, ensemble is solid. The emendations are thought-provoking and novel and Tertis’s work is hardly an everyday event. This is an ingenious piece of work…The companion work is Schnittke’s authentic 1985 Viola Concerto, another masterpiece. Powerfully introspective it exerts a momentous vortex-like pull. The central Allegro molto sweeps and swoops in dramatic fashion, its ghostly dance patina richly etched and pointed. Carpenter’s intonation remains unbreached even in the highest positions, and as the reverie incrementally ratchets tension, infiltrating nightmare and torment (from around 12:00 in the central movement) he responds with unsullied tone. He surmounts the paragraphal considerations as well, not least in the finale which can easily dissipate unless a strong and rigorous pair are in close accord. Fortunately they are here. This is all most movingly done.



Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, October 2009

David Aaron Carpenter proves his credentials as a new viola star with an agile, nuanced reading of the Elgar [Cello Concerto transcribed for viola] and a powerful account of the Schnittke [Viola Concerto]. With Eschenbach and the players on fired-up form, this is one heck of a calling-card for the new boy.

The advance buzz surrounding David Aaron Carpenter proves justified. This is the first of four CDs the 23-year-old American (a prize-winning protégé of Pinchas Zukerman) will be making for Ondine. In a recent interview, Carpenter spoke of his desire “to put [the viola] out as a major solo instrument to rival the violin and cello”, an aim which, as Michael Kennedy suggested in his perceptive review of Rivka Golani’s 1988 world premiere recording (Conifer, no longer available), chimes with that of Lionel Tertis when he fashioned his transcription of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in 1929. Tertis’s clever makeover has now, in turn, been overhauled by Carpenter…Carpenter gives a commandingly articulate display, and the Philharmonia are on immaculately scrubbed from under Christoph Eschenbach’s thoughtful lead…[the] Schnittke Concerto…is an excitingly intrepid and deeply sincere creation, as provocative in its wild extremes of mood as it is intriguing in its fruitful juxtaposition of old and new. However, such is the work’s emotional clout and cumulative impact, I can guarantee you’ll keep coming back for more. It helps, too, that Carpenter plays with superlative assurance and magnetic conviction, and he is backed to the hilt by Eschenbach and an audibly fired-up Philharmonia…All told, an impressive and bold debut.




Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, October 2009

David Aaron Carpenter proves his credentials as a new viola star with an agile, nuanced reading of the Elgar [Cello Concerto transcribed for viola] and a powerful account of the Schnittke [Viola Concerto]. With Eschenbach and the players on fired-up form, this is one heck of a calling-card for the new boy.

The advance buzz surrounding David Aaron Carpenter proves justified. This is the first of four CDs the 23-year-old American (a prize-winning protégé of Pinchas Zukerman) will be making for Ondine. In a recent interview, Carpenter spoke of his desire “to put [the viola] out as a major solo instrument to rival the violin and cello”, an aim which, as Michael Kennedy suggested in his perceptive review of Rivka Golani’s 1988 world premiere recording (Conifer, no longer available), chimes with that of Lionel Tertis when he fashioned his transcription of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in 1929. Tertis’s clever makeover has now, in turn, been overhauled by Carpenter…Carpenter gives a commandingly articulate display, and the Philharmonia are on immaculately scrubbed from under Christoph Eschenbach’s thoughtful lead…[the] Schnittke Concerto…is an excitingly intrepid and deeply sincere creation, as provocative in its wild extremes of mood as it is intriguing in its fruitful juxtaposition of old and new. However, such is the work’s emotional clout and cumulative impact, I can guarantee you’ll keep coming back for more. It helps, too, that Carpenter plays with superlative assurance and magnetic conviction, and he is backed to the hilt by Eschenbach and an audibly fired-up Philharmonia…All told, an impressive and bold debut.




James Inverne
Gramophone, October 2009

For some, playing the Elgar Cello Concerto in a viola transcription will seem pure chutzpah, for others a continuation of an old tradition. Either way, David Aaron Carpenter provides his credentials as a new viola star with an agile, nuanced reading of the Elgar and a powerful account of the Schnittke. With Eschenbach and the players on fired-up form, this is one heck of a calling-card for the new boy.




David Patrick Stearns
The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2009

If there’s such a thing as an overnight-star violist, it’s David Aaron Carpenter. Only a few years ago, he was a lanky Princeton University student who had won a prestigious gig on a Philadelphia Orchestra youth concert. Now, having studied with Roberto Diaz and been an official Rolex protege of Pinchas Zukerman, the Long Island-born Carpenter is making an ambitious recording debut with a viola transcription of Elgar’s “Cello Concerto” plus Schnittke’s 1985 “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra.” It’s impressive, to be sure, though the kind of explosive energy that Carpenter generates in live performances has yet to be captured.

Purely on the basis of tone and technique, he makes an excellent case for the viola version of Elgar’s concerto, so much that you can’t help making slightly unfair comparisons between him and recordings by the world’s great cellists. Carpenter is in a league with the best, but if you’re expecting him to seize the concerto with the revisionist passion of, say, Jacqueline Du Pre, you’d best listen further into the disc. The Schnittke concerto, which is among the composer’s most popular pieces in that medium, is played here with great imagination and identification. Much credit is no doubt due to Christoph Eschenbach, who has recorded lots of Schnittke concertos with great conviction.






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6:59:45 PM, 16 April 2014
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