Elliott Schwartz is a native New Yorker who has spent almost half a century in New England. He is retired from the faculty of Bowdoin College, where he served for more than forty years. His many extended residencies and/or visiting professorships include Ohio State University, the University of California (San Diego and Santa Barbara), Harvard University, University of Oxford, and University of Cambridge, and he has appeared as guest composer in such cities as London, Paris, Strasbourg, Weimar, Mannheim, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Tokyo, and Reykjavík.
Performances of his music include the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; the Cassatt, Borromeo, Utrecht, Blair, and Kreutzer String Quartets; Lontano contemporary music ensemble (London, England); and distinguished new-music soloists Bertram Turetzky, Stuart Dempster, Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Jacob Glick, Allen Blustine, Phillip Rehfeldt, Libby Van Cleve, and Blair McMillen. Honors and awards for his compositions include the Gaudeamus Foundation (The Netherlands), the Rockefeller Foundation (two Bellagio residencies), and the National Endowment for the Arts. During 2006, Schwartz's 70th birthday was celebrated with concerts and guest lectures at the University of Oxford, the Royal Academy of Music in London, the University of Minnesota, Butler University, the American Composers Alliance Festival in New York, and the Library of Congress.
In addition to composing, Schwartz has also written or edited a number of books on musical subjects. These include Music: Ways of Listening, The Symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Electronic Music: A Listener’s Guide, Music Since 1945 (co-author with Daniel Godfrey), and Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music (co-editor with Barney Childs). Over the course of his career, he served as president of the College Music Society, president of the Society of Composers, Inc., vice-president of the American Music Center, and board member of the American Composers Alliance.
Schwartz's style is marked by a fondness for unsynchronized simultaneous layers of activity (in the spirit of Charles Ives), highly dramatic—even theatrical—gestures, and brilliant instrumental colors. His juxtaposition of tonal passages and angular, modernist ones, together with his penchant for quoting fragments of pre-existing music, has prompted one critic (Tim Page, The New York Times) to cite his work as "beyond eclecticism." In the words of another (David Cleary, New Music Connoisseur), "what the 20th century needs most is an analogue to Brahms—someone who is able to gather up the widely scattered tendrils of this highly fractured 100 years and create a personal style from them…. Elliott Schwartz is making a most persuasive bid to be that Brahms."