Harold Meltzer

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Harold Meltzer (born 1966 in Brooklyn) is an American composer.[1] His more frequently performed works include Sindbad (2005) for narrator and piano trio, based on a short story by Donald Barthelme, which Meltzer narrates and has been narrated also by John Shirley-Quirk, David Ogden Stiers, and Walter Van Dyk; Brion (2008) for six instruments, a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize;[2] Aqua (2011) for string quartet, commissioned for the Avalon, Lydian, and Pacifica Quartets through the award of the Barlow Prize;[3] and Rumors (1998–99), a suite of pieces, each for a different solo flute, among them Trapset for alto flute, that explore different types of extended techniques. Current projects include works for the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Boston Chamber Music Society, tenor Paul Appleby, and guitarist Eliot Fisk. Past commissions have come from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Library of Congress, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Music Foundations, Meet the Composer, Concert Artists Guild, the ASCAP Foundation, and the Minnesota Commissioning Club.


Meltzer was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Long Island, where he studied piano and had instruction in music theory from Morton Estrin. Meltzer graduated from Amherst College, BA (1988), summa cum laude, where he studied composition with Lewis Spratlan, piano with Robert Miller, and bassoon with Frank Morelli. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, MPhil (1990), where he worked with Alexander Goehr, and then completed his musical education at the Yale University School of Music, MMA (1997) and DMA (2000), where he studied composition with Martin Bresnick, Anthony Davis, and Jacob Druckman and harpsichord with Richard Rephann. Meltzer also studied composition privately with Tobias Picker and Charles Wuorinen. More recently he studied piano (2006–08) with Ursula Oppens.

(Throughout the 1990s, as he studied music, Meltzer also studied law at Columbia University School of Law, JD (1992), and then practiced law at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler and then at Meltzer Fishman Madigan & Campbell. He no longer practices law.)

Meltzer taught at Vassar College from 2005–12 and then was the James E. and Grace W. Valentine Visiting Associate Professor of Music at Amherst College from 2012-13. He lives with his wife and children, Julia Meltzer and Elijah Meltzer in the East Village of Manhattan.


Selected Works[edit]

  • Fortunes for orchestra (2015)
  • Variations on a Summer Day for mezzo-soprano and nine instruments (2012–15)
  • Air and Angels for oboe and string trio (2014)
  • Kreisleriana for violin and piano (2012, 2014)
  • from a book of beautiful monsters for soprano, mandolin, and guitar (2013)
  • Pacific Beach for SSATBB voices (2013)
  • Aqua for string quartet (2011)
  • Beautiful Ohio for tenor and piano (2010)
  • Privacy for piano and twenty-one instruments (2008)
  • Brion for flute, oboe, mandolin, guitar, violin, and cello (2008)
  • Toccatas for harpsichord (2005, 2008)
  • Sindbad for narrator and piano trio (2005)
  • Full Faith and Credit for two bassoons and string orchestra (2004)
  • Virginal for harpsichord and fifteen instruments (2002)
  • Exiles for baritone, flute, clarinet, violin, and cello (2000)
  • Two Songs from Silas Marner for soprano and cello (2000)
  • Rumors for solo flutes (1998–99)


  • Brion, Sindbad, Exiles, and Two Songs from Silas Marner, on Naxos American Classics (Naxos 8.559660), 2010[11]
  • Toccatas on Sono Luminus (DSL092174), 2014 (Grammy Nomination, 2015)[12]
  • Virginal on Albany Records (Troy 607), 2002[13]
  • Rumors on Albany Records (Troy 629), 2002[14]
  • forthcoming recording on Bridge Records
  • forthcoming recording on BMOP/Sound

Critical reception[edit]

Meltzer’s 2010 Naxos disc was named one of the best recordings of the year in The New York Times[15] and named to Fanfare Magazine’s annual Want List and American Record Guide’s Critics Choice List in 2011.[16] In Fanfare, the composer and critic Robert Carl wrote that Meltzer “seems to write pieces of scrupulous craft and exceptional freshness, which makes each seem like an important contribution. Part of the trick (I think) is that Meltzer needs to find a unique take on any piece, and in particular its sound world, before he can write.” Carl described Meltzer’s style as tending “to feature brightly contrasted colors that simultaneously aren’t flashy. Rather, they provide delight in their well-calibrated contrasts one to another. The little low-register piccolo lick at the start of the 2008 Brion is an example—I still can’t get it out of my head a few days later. Another aspect I hear throughout is an ability to take simple, clear ideas and enliven them by putting them in a new context. Sometimes this is the aforementioned mix of colors. At other times it’s more complex modernist textures. At still others it’s a dreamlike archaism; one feels as though one is hearing music from a distant time through a glass darkly. He’s also unafraid of repetition, but also not obsessive, as in some Minimalist musics. And finally, there’s a lovely recurrent danciness."[17] In a 2011 interview, The New York Times chief music Anthony Tommasini describes himself as a “weighty supporter” of three artists in particular: composer Stephen Hartke, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, and Meltzer.[18]


External links[edit]