Exiles Reviews


“The much more expansive Exiles, from the following year, ups the ante, accompanying a baritone with four instruments–flute, clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), violin, and cello. The text for Exiles is taken from two poems, both titled “Exile,” which offer very different perspectives. The first, by Conrad Aiken, is quite bleak and intense, and Meltzer’s music is the perfect match. This mostly ascetic music is a far cry from the freneticism of Brion, Rumors, and Virginal. The second, Hart Crane’s adaptation of a classical Chinese poem, is even more austere with frequent solo instruments exposed against the vocal line. It is deeply haunting in its introspection.”

— Frank J. Oteri, NewMusicBox, October 26, 2010


The Boston Globe

“To these ears Harold Meltzer scored something of a triumph with Conrad Aiken’s long and intense poem ‘Exile’ — you had the sense that his setting of it was patiently growing into completeness at the same tempo as the poem was as you read it, heard it, and thought about it. High marks to Meltzer not only for shrewd psychological pacing but for an almost homeopathic use of restricted tone colors. Whether it was oracular declamation or drained- dry neutrality that was demanded, veteran tenor Paul Sperry came through with total understanding. ‘Exile’ goes immediately onto this year’s must-hear-again list.”

— Richard Buell, The Boston Globe, February 7, 2001


San Francisco Classical Voice

“Entertaining? How can you do that with contemporary music? By trying your damnest to communicate. That’s exactly what’s missing from academic and in-your-face music — the commitment to speak to the audience, with music, in words, in intention. That’s exactly what was present Monday night… Communication in music doesn’t necessarily mean easy accessibility and the West Coast premiere of Harold Meltzer’s Exiles was a good case in point…. Exiles uses the text of two poems by the same name, by Conrad Aiken (abut a desolate landscape) and Hart Crane (about the “voiceless” endurance of denied love), material — according to the composer himself — that’s “pretty sad,” and yet the music is rather robust and energy-filled. It has a stunning opening, the voice appearing as a string instrument and the strings playing individual “voices” until they meet in a rather operatic ensemble.”

— Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice, April 1, 2002


The New York Times

“Call Harold Meltzer’s ‘Exiles’ a dramatic monologue. The composer, a co-founder of Sequitur, took two poems by Conrad Aiken and Hart Crane and bridged their very different verbal styles with wistful, darkish music that broke in repeating waves and evoked the emotional barrenness of the poems.”

— Anne Midgette, The New York Times, April 2, 2005


Musical America

“After the intermission, the Da Capo Chamber Players were joined by mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger for Harold Meltzer’s Exiles, settings of two poems of the same title by Conrad Aiken and Hart Crane. Meltzer demonstrates tremendous sensitivity to text in his vocal writing, and supple instrumental finesse as well. Aiken’s poem depicts a traveler on a long sojourn in the desert, observing the brittle form and survival instincts of this harsh environment. Crane’s Exile, a translation of a Chinese poem, bemoans a distant lover’s absence. Nessinger’s warm voice, with its generous lower register, seemed tailor-made to these richly detailed lyrical songs. Meltzer’s strong talent for crafting persuasive musical narratives makes a listener long to hear what he could do with the right opera libretto.”

— Christian B. Carey, Musical America, April 18, 2011