Tag Archives: Martin Bresnick

Composer Spotlight: Martin Bresnick

…more than almost any living composer I know of,
he is able to take the most basic, plain materials and spin them out into compelling dramatic structures…
Over the past few months, throngs of friends and admirers have gathered to help celebrate Martin Bresnick’s 70th birthday (November 13). Bang on a Can curated events on July 26th and September 11th in honor of their former teacher. Similarly, members of the Yale faculty paid tribute to their colleague’s milestone birthday on October 18th with a specially dedicated program. The celebrations continued on November 6th as a star-studded night of performances at the National Sawdust in New York City ushered in the beginning of Bresnick’s 70th year.
The stylistic range of Martin Bresnick’s music makes it difficult to pin down, but it is always “marked by an economy of materials and lyrical intensity” (Kyle Gann, American Music in the Twentieth Century). We encourage you to browse through the catalog highlights below and discover why so many champion his music.
    for Orchestra
    3 3(dbl. E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3 – 4 3 3 0; Timp. Perc. Str.

    …this is music not to sum up in a few words, but to sink your teeth into and reflect upon at length.

    –Village Voice

    for Two Marimbas and Orchestra
    Solo mar.(2); 0 2 2 2 – 2 0 0 0; Str.

    Unmistakably American in its dialect, it’s still not hard to hear Stravinsky (or at least Nadia Boulanger) hovering approvingly in the background.

    –American Record Guide

    An Opera: Prologue, 3 Scenes, Epilogue
    (Based on the story “Strakh” by Anton Chekhov)

    There were sincere ovations and gasps of admiration heard throughout the performance, and the sort of curtain-call reception which any theater creator would hope for. You felt part of something special just by showing up.

    –New Haven Theater Jerk

    for Orchestra
    2(1 dbl. Fl.) 2 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. 1Perc. Str.

    …effective as a call to action; and in the light of Ferguson, Missouri, and similar events, Mr. Bresnick’s “call” was an action worthy of multiple hearings.

    –Idyllwild Town Crier

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    for Cello and Piano

    … [a] blend of lyricism and cragginess…


    for Saxophone Quartet

    If anyone ever doubted the power and beauty of a saxophone quartet, PRISM’s presentation of this work would quickly change their mind. It left me speechless.


    Bresnick on “Every Thing Must Go”
    for Piano, Organ, Violin, Vibraphone, Electric Guitar, Bass Clarinet, and Drum Set

    …it is evidence of an American composer whose ears are wide open…

    –New World Records

    Bresnick on “Fantasia on a Theme by…”
    for Woodwind Quintet

    …an unusually resonant sound, warmer and less “tart” than that usually heard in wind quintets.

    –Rovi Joseph Stevenson

    for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano

    Although it begins as though it might be some sort of minimalist piece…
    it develops into something completely different, nostalgic, deep, and beautiful, and having a very specific relationship to its text.


    Bresnick on “My Twentieth Century”
    for Cello and Piano

    …dark, brooding and emotionally substantial…


    …exemplifies the power formal craftsmanship can have to ensnare the ear and make a visceral emotional connection.

    –Time Out New York

    Bresnick on “String Quartet No. 2”

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    for Mandolin

    …seek[s] to synthesize the musical past and a unique voice of the present.

    –The Yale Alumni Magazine

    A coherent multi-sensorial work, it invites sustained attention from a far wider audience than ‘pure’ concert music can hope to do.

    –RealTime Online Magazine

    for Solo Piccolo with Optional Toy Piano

    His music is formally clear, and it has a combination of a direct expressivity and a rigorous method, as well as a real sense of sonic immediacy.

    –John Harbison

    for Solo Piano

    Mercifully free of stereotypic trappings of negativity — just listen to the chiming, dancing turns of “Ishi’s Song” — you’ll find Bresnick handing you refreshingly new and yet fully authentic meditations on things we least understand.

    –Porter Anderson

    for Solo Violin

    …a significant contribution to the solo violin repertoire.


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  • Take a glimpse into the world behind many of Martin Bresnick’s works.

  • Angelus Novus
    (Part of “Opera della Musica Povera”) for Orchestra
    Bread and Salt
    for Mixed Ensemble
    B’s Garlands
    for Eight Solo Violoncellos
    Caprichos Enfáticos
    for Piano and Percussion Quartet
    for Solo Mezzo-soprano and Orchestra
    for Brass Ensemble
    Fantasia on a Theme by Willie Dixon
    for Chamber Ensemble
    for Two Marimbas and Orchestra
    Little Suite
    for String Orchestra
    My Friend’s Story
    An Opera: Prologue, 3 Scenes, Epilogue
    Pine Eyes
    for Narrator and Mixed Ensemble
    Prophetic Strain
    (Movement II from “Pan Penseroso”) for Two Flutes and Orchestra
    (part of “Opera della Musica Povera”) for Orchestra
    The Way It Goes
    for Orchestra
    Wir Weben Wir Weben
    for String Orchestra

Bresnick Inspires Ballet

On June 2nd and 3rd Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance will present a new contemporary ballet at the NYU/Tisch School of the Arts inspired by Martin Bresnick’s Prayers Remain Forever. The production, which is performed around Bresnick’s Josephine (the Singer) for solo violin, explores the idea of preserving physical and internal grace in the face of oppression of any kind. Learn more about these two works here.

Both Prayers Remain Forever and Josephine (the Singer) have received high praise from critics:
“Prayers Remain Forever” is a powerful musical freight-train; both instruments have sections of unrelenting drive, where each refuses to acquiesce to any will than its own. Both dig deeply into their material, and the piece feels like an “emotional excavation”, building to a rock-solid conclusion as it brings back the opening material in a new light.
–Robert Carl, Fanfare
…dark, brooding and emotionally substantial.
–Jed Distler, Gramophone
… [“Josephine, the Singer”] is a significant contribution to the solo violin repertoire … an expressive piece in a single movement…
We invite you to explore these piece below.

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