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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Harold Meltzer, Songs and Structures

Today I am happy to report in on a new collection of compositions by Harold Meltzer (b. 1966) on an album entitled Songs and Structures (Bridge 9513). The title makes perfect sense with the music at hand, as there are two song cycles and then two instrumental chamber works one might note are marked by a nicely turned structural sense.

The song cycles are very well performed by tenor Paul Appleby, known as a luminary from Metropolitan Opera, and pianist Natalia Katyukova. Both cycles are quite nicely idiomatic, fluid, evocative and well realized. There is a dramatic arc in both instances. "Bride of the Island" comes out of poems by Ted Hughes, "Beautiful Ohio" a cycle with poems by James Wright. There is a pronounced, rather naturally engaged kind of Modernism at play in this music, tonal at base but very freely and expressionistically so. No one hearing this would imagine this as either a looking back to the past or a product of some other era. Yet there also is a kind of timelessness to it all, a kind of Ur laced declamatory flow that is appropriately inside the song cycle tradition, that shows a natural opening onto the way song cycles resonate and narrate when they are effectively wrought.

The two instrumental works present in this program have a good amount of structural complexity that the song cycles are not designed to have and so the contrast makes for a lively listen. The string quartet movement "Aqua" is a bit of a tour de force, with well conceived attention to the sound color and expressive possibilities of the four strings. There is a one-on-one overlap of noteful content and colorful execution that gets a glowingly sunny reading by the Avalon String Quartet. Mellifluous exertion and reposeful flow of calm reflection alternate and run one into the other in ways that mark the work as very original and moving.

The final piece is a nod to the violin brilliance of Fritz Kreisler in the violin-piano "Kreisleriana." It has an elemental primal quality in spite of its sophistication. We do not get some kind of pastiche of Kreisler evocations so much as a very forward moving original take on it all, and so we are very much on new ground. Yet the violin virtuosity and lightness of being that characterizes Kreisler at his finest is to be heard and appreciated in a new sounding.

And when all is said and done this program gives us the kind of pleasure that comes from immersion in a very musically situated depth and meticulous brilliance. I recommend this highly for you who want to keep current with what is new and very worthy. Bravo!

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