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CLASSICAL  December 2005

CLASSICAL December 2005

Subject:

Donald Martino Obit

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 12 Dec 2005 11:45:38 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (91 lines)

FYI

   Donald Martino, 74, Creator of Atonal Musical Works, Dies
   
   By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
   Published: December 12, 2005
   
   Donald Martino, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer
   widely respected for atonal works that combine intellectual rigor
   with expressive freedom, died on Thursday aboard a cruise ship
   in the Caribbean en route to Antigua.  He was 74.
   
   The cause was cardiac arrest following complications of diabetes,
   said Lora Martino, his wife of 36 years, who was vacationing
   with him. Mr. Martino lived in Newton, Mass.
   
   A student of Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt, he was an
   unapologetic Modernist steeped in 12-tone techniques. His works,
   typically, were dense and formidably complex. A skilled craftsman
   and comprehensive musician, he believed in challenging listeners.
   In moments of frustration, he attributed the difficulties his
   music had in winning mainstream acceptance to concert promoters
   who cultivated a "potty-trained audience," as he put it in an
   interview for his 60th birthday.
   
   Yet many of his works had arresting qualities that even
   nonspecialist audiences often found alluring: rhapsodic freedom,
   Romantic expressivity, vividly dramatic mood shifts, fetching
   instrumental colorings and, despite the busyness of his pieces,
   remarkably lucid textures. His 1981 "Fantasies and Impromptus,"
   for example, a 30-minute work for piano in nine movements, is
   exhilarating in its improvisatory fervor, moving from ruminative
   passages in a bittersweet atonal harmonic language to fits of
   impetuosity.  Called a "landmark of American piano music" by the
   critic Andrew Porter in The New Yorker, it is like a 20th-century
   descendant of Schumann's fantastical "Kreisleriana."
   
   Similarly, there is "Notturno," a 20-minute chamber work awarded
   the 1974 Pulitzer Prize. In this viscerally dramatic score,
   moments of swirling chaos give way to pensive musings; rhythmically
   kinetic outbursts alternate with intricate webs of counterpoint.
   The critic Michael Steinberg, writing in The Boston Globe, called
   the work "nocturnal theater of the soul."
   
   Mr. Martino seemed dismayed by the labels used to describe his
   music. "If anyone writes program notes and says I am a Serial
   or a 12-tone composer, I am infuriated," he told an interviewer
   for The New York Times in 1997. "I don't want to prejudice people
   with that."
   
   For all the cerebral integrity of Mr. Martino's works, there was
   often an improvisatory energy in his music, stemming from his
   early days of playing jazz. Born on May 16, 1931, in Plainfield,
   N.J., he began studying music at 9, first learning the clarinet,
   saxophone and oboe. By 15 he was composing actively. He attended
   Syracuse University and completed a Master of Fine Arts degree
   at Princeton in 1954. For the next two years he studied on a
   Fulbright fellowship in Italy with the Modernist master Luigi
   Dallapiccola.
   
   Mr. Martino's teaching career began at the Third Street Music
   School Settlement in New York in the late 1950's. After successful
   teaching stints at Princeton, Yale, the New England Conservatory
   in Boston (as chairman of the composition department) and Brandeis,
   he joined the faculty at Harvard in 1983. He retired 10 years
   later at 62 so he could devote himself to composition.
   
   In 1978 he founded Dantalian Inc., a publishing house, thus
   placing himself in the vanguard of American composers who have
   embraced self-publishing as a means to disseminate their music.
   Ms. Martino was his partner in this endeavor. "I ran the business,
   he wrote the music," she said on Saturday.
   
   Mr. Martino produced a large and varied catalog, including
   symphonic works, concertos, vocal music and pieces for jazz
   ensemble. In addition to his wife, his survivors include their
   son, Christopher, of Boston, and Donald Martino's daughter from
   an earlier marriage, Anna Maria Martino of Branford, Conn.

   Mr. Martino was to be honored with a concert at Harvard on Feb.
   5 by the Lumen Contemporary Music Ensemble celebrating a year
   of 75th birthdays for Mr. Martino and a composer colleague,
   Martin Boykan.
   
   Lora Martino said that her husband had taken his laptop and
   electric keyboard on the cruise so that he could work on a
   commission from the Tanglewood Festival. "As I did my thing,
   walking and swimming and exploring," she said, "he spent a good
   part of the vacation writing music very happily."

Karl

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