Elliott Carter (1908-2012)

Allegro scorrevole (1997)

pour orchestre

  • General information
    • Composition date : 1997
    • Duration : 11 mn
    • Editor : Boosey & Hawkes
    • Cycle : Symphonia : Sum Fluxae Pretiam Spei
Detailed formation
  • 2 flûtes, flûte piccolo, 2 hautbois, cor anglais, 2 clarinettes (aussi 1 clarinette en mib), clarinette basse, 2 bassons, contrebasson, 4 cors, 3 trompettes, 3 trombones, tuba, 4 percussionnistes, harpe, piano, cordes

Creation information

  • Date : 22 May 1997
    Location :

    Étas-Unis, Cleveland


    Performers :

    le Cleveland Orchestra, direction : Christoph von Dohnanyi.

Program note

Allegro Scorrevole, as its title suggests, consists primarily of a continuous flow of soft, rapid passages that move over the entire range of the sound spectrum, and here and there form into thematic material. Against this is a lyrical idea also developed throughout, sometimes slowing down to hesitantly separated notes and at other times tightly joined together to form intensely expressive lines.

The fleeting, evanescent character of the score was suggested by these lines from the Latin poem, Bulla (Bubble) by the English Jacobean poet, Richard Crashaw – The bubble speaks, as it floats through the air:

Sum venti ingenium breve
Flos sum, scilicet, aeris……..

Sum blandum, petulans, vagum,
Pulchrum, purpureum, et decens,
Comptum, floridulum, et recens.

I am the brief nature of the wind
To be sure, I am the flower of air……..

I am charming, wanton, inconstant,
Beautiful, gleaming, and noble,
Ornate, somewhat blooming, and fresh.

Allegro Scorrevole was commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Music Director, and is dedicated to it and to Oliver Knussen. It was composed during the summer of 1995 in Southbury, Connecticut.

Elliott Carter, 1995.


Allegro scorrevole is the first movement of the orchestral triptych Symphonia: sum fluxae pretium spei. A symphony beyond symphonies, this was an astoundingly and hearteningly massive achievement for a composer in his mid-eighties. The invention is consistently alert, the execution masterful and the development typically nimble. Thinking of a Latin poem by the seventeenth-century English poet Richard Crashaw, Carter adopts the viewpoint of a bubble floating above human affairs, observing, in the three movements, the games people play, the tragedies they endure, and the life that goes on fizzing through them. These movements may be performed separately and were separately commissioned, Partita by the Chicago Symphony, Adagio tenebroso by the BBC and Allegro scorrevole by the Cleveland Orchestra.

Paul Griffiths.