Elliott Carter’s music had already been scheduled for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players season opener when the composer died on Nov. 5 at 103; Sunday’s concert at Jordan Hall turned from salute to eulogy. It was a lively memorial, though, putting two of Carter's works in company complementing his penchant for bristling musical confabulation. The afternoon was a reminder that discord, too, can be a musical virtue.
Thomas Adès and Kirill Gerstein, conductor and piano soloist for the past week’s Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts, opened with Beethoven’s four-hand-piano version of his “Grosse Fuge” ( Op. 134), an unruly gathering of harmonies and moods just barely held together by the form’s imitative process. Beethoven’s arrangement physically manifests the friction, the players forever intertwining their hands like a demonic cat’s cradle. The interpretation also had feline aspects, with Adès and Gerstein pouncing on accents and dissonances. The fiercest sections, obstreperous screens of counterpoint, were vehement but oddly diffuse, not quite locking in. But when the fugue was at its jauntiest, the pair’s rhythm came into sharp focus, honing the humor to a dangerous edge.