Martin Bresnick turned 60 last month and he’s celebrating the event with two events at Zankel Hall this week.  One piece will be on the Bang on the Can All-Stars program on Tuesday night and, on Saturday, the Yale School of Music will devote an entire evening to Bresnick’s music, including choral songs, a concerto for two marimbas, and a multimedia piece for solo pianist.

Steve Smith has a splendid profile of Bresnick in the Sunday New York Times which acknowledges the perhaps unfortunate fact that Bresnick is best-known for being the teacher of other composers who are more famous than he is.  On the other hand, it’s hard to feel too bad for a guy who is the coordinator of the composition department at Yale, where he has taught since 1976.

I can’t recall ever hearing any of Bresnick music (an oversight I hope to correct on Tuesday night) but I suspect many of you have and perhaps some of you have even been his students.  What do you think about him as a composer and as a teacher?

9 thoughts on “The Case of Martin Bresnick”
  1. Unrelated to the post above, we have been getting hit by a spammer from Australia (at least that’s what the reverse DNS lookup indicates) called “anonymous” who keeps posting comments of praise. While we all appreciate great feedback, this is a bit excessive, and I’ll keep deleting these as I see them. Not that I don’t have better things to do, mind you…

  2. I started at Yale in 1986 and recall from my first semester a concert celebrating MB’s 40th birthday, and have heard a lot of his works over the intervening two decades. I find his music appealing in terms of organization, sound, and emotional affect. I studied with him for two semesters and found him challenging but supportive–offering useful advice for composers writing in all kinds of styles and idioms.

  3. I’ll just repeat what I said:

    He’s a really wonderful composer. The Piano Trio is the first piece of his I heard, and is maybe still the one I like best. My Twentieth Century is also really good, as is ***. I like him alot, also.

  4. I was never a student of Martin’s (he didn’t teach undergrads!) but I’ve always admired his work as a composer. That said, I did study with one of his students, Michael Tenzer, so I may have inherited some Bresnick wisdom second-hand. Some of my favorites are on his double-disc set “Works of a Poor Music.” Some that spring to mind are: Follow Your Leader, Pigs and Fishes, *** (cl/vla), and Bird as Prophet (cl/vla/pno). On that disc Lisa Moore also plays a wonderful version of the Dream of the Lost Traveller, which I saw her perform at the Flea (premiere?) and again at a record release for the album at CRI before they went belly up. RIP CRI.

  5. Martin is a terrific teacher. As the Times article states, the variety of music that his students have created is astonishing. What I remember from lessons with him is that, while he had a definate oppinion on musical issues (is it possible to be a composer and not have strong oppinions?), Martin didn’t force them on me. Rather, he helped deffine, and invistigate the potentials and implications of whatever the language I was working in. I learned, and grew, a great deal.

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