New Works: Treat Worth the Travail

Seven years ago, the Ford Foundation gave Pianist Jacob Lateiner a $5,000 grant to commission a new work. "Being very lazy by nature," he explains, "I did not want to spend time learning a new piece that I could only play a few times because of its novelty. I wanted to strive for something, no matter how difficult it might be, that would be valuable decades from now." So Lateiner asked Elliott Carter, one of modern music's most original and complex composers, to write a piano concerto.

Carter completed the piece only a...

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