for string quartet

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Sample Score Pages
thumbnail of AQUA website excerpts
17 min.
February 16, 2012
Bargemusic, Brooklyn, NY
Avalon String Quartet
Commissioned for the Avalon, Lydian, and Pacifica Quartets through the award of the 2008 Barlow Prize by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University
A Paul Goldberger piece in The New Yorker magazine introduced me to architect Jeanne Gang’s mesmerizing Aqua Tower in Chicago. Goldberger begins his description: “Aqua—a new, eighty-two-story apartment tower in the center of Chicago—is made of the same tough, brawny materials as most skyscrapers: metal, concrete, and lots of glass. But the architect, Jeanne Gang, a forty-five-year-old Chicagoan, has figured out a way to give it soft, silky, lines, like draped fabric… You know this tower is huge and solid, but it feels malleable, its exterior pulsing with a gentle rhythm.” I collected photographs of the skyscraper, from different vantage points, in different light. And in April 2011, the quartet already well underway, I was in Chicago, walking around and around the building. The interconnected episodes of the string quartet work at replicating both the building’s rippling surface and its “brawny materials.”
“Harold Meltzer responds to the undulating surface of architect Jeanne Gang’s distinctive Chicago skyscraper of the same name…. The music had a sense of constant rhythmic pulse, but at any given moment violinists Blaise Magniere and Marie Wang, violist Anthony Devroye and cellist Cheng-Hou Lee swirled and danced away in syncopated riffs. Their melodies sounded spicy and unpredictable but always driven by an undercurrent of seamless flow and forward momentum. Like the surface of Gang’s apartment building, Meltzer’s Aqua was full of energy with few sharp edges.”

— Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review, April 28, 2011

“For his string quartet, Aqua, composer Harold Meltzer has drafted a variation on the aphorism, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” He has written a piece about architecture.
“If music has the capacity to elicit a three-dimensional vision, this was it. With little imagination on the listeners’ part, Meltzer connected palpably to architect Jeanne Gang’s 86-story, 859-foot Chicago high-rise, Aqua Tower. Waves of arpeggios, glistening warmth, darkening shadows and splashes of light conjured the passage of clouds and sun on the building’s exterior, its billowing balconies undulating softly through slowly unfolding dissonant harmonies.
“Meltzer, who spoke to the audience about his compositional process, compared it with the haystacks Monet pained at various seasons and times of day. Like the tower, this music lifted and soared, if only in the imagination. If, as Goethe contended, architecture is frozen music, Meltzer has provided a thawing mechanism.”

— Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News, January 23, 2013

“The concert ended with Harold Meltzer’s Aqua, a boldly episodic string quartet lasting 20 minutes. In various sections the strings play aggressive, astringent arpeggios, break into spiky chords, then segue into meditative stretches of tart yet celestial harmonies, and more. Over all, the music comes across as at once exhilarating and dangerous.”

— Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, June 1, 2013
Performance History
  • February 16, 2012: Avalon Quartet, Bargemusic, Brooklyn, New York
  • February 18, 2012: Avalon Quartet, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
  • September 23, 2012: Avalon Quartet, Art Institute of Chicago
  • November 14, 2012: Lydian Quartet, Mandel Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
  • November 17, 2012: Lydian Quartet, Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
  • January 22, 2013: Avalon Quartet, Birmingham Chamber Music Society, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama
  • January 25, 2013: Avalon Quartet, Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, Fairfield, Iowa
  • February 12, 2013: Avalon Quartet, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois
  • February 15, 2013: Avalon Quartet, Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, Rockford, Illinois
  • May 30, 2013: Locrian Chamber Players, Riverside Church, New York City
  • May 31, 2013: Locrian Chamber Players, Bargemusic, Brooklyn, New York
  • July 24, 2013: Yellow Barn Music Festival, Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, Vermont
  • July 26, 2013: Yellow Barn Music Festival, Putney, Vermont
  • October 17, 2015: Lydian Quartet, Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
  • November 8, 2015: Eclipse Quartet, Drinkward Concert Hall, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California
  • November 10, 2015: Eclipse Quartet, MONK Space, Los Angeles, California
  • November 13, 2015: Lydian Quartet, Festival of New American Music, Sacramento State University, California
  • November 15, 2015: Lydian Quartet, Mondavi Center, University of California, Davis
  • November 17, 2015: Lydian Quartet, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  • February 6, 2015: Lydian Quartet, Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts
  • February 7, 2015: Lydian Quartet, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York
  • February 17, 2016: Contemporary Directions Ensemble, Britton Recital Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • March 20, 2016: Ensemble Échappé, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City