At long last the work of American composer Martin Bresnick is making its mark on Australian music. A long-time teacher at Yale University, Bresnick has been a critical influence on several Australian composers, notably Graeme Koehne in Adelaide. For the past two decades, Bresnick’s music has come to us largely through the performances of his life-partner, Australianborn pianist Lisa Moore. She is the fulcrum of several pieces on this recent album, an hour of music comprising six instrumental pieces composed in 2010-12. Moore has no need to ignite technical fireworks in this music. Her performances, and those of eight colleagues, are neat, cool and considered, devoid of the kind of clammy nostalgia that the content could arouse. Rich in so many sources, Bresnick draws on his Polish Jewish heritage, the literature and philosophy of New England transcendentalism, disappearing Native American languages and contemporary social issues. Yet his musical language belies the gravitas of such lofty concerns. These pieces reveal his espousal of the Italian tradition of musica povera, creating beautiful fabrics from basic shards of cloth. From the opening oboe solo, a call to prayer from ancient Jerusalem, to the closing cello cries of Prayers Remain Forever, the tapestry becomes an ancient scroll of reflection, Thoreau conversing with a Talmudic seer. That conversation draws in Kafka, Melville and Blake, but never erupts in argument. Moving through tonal territories and pulsing rhythms, Bresnick blurs the boundaries of postmodernism and minimalism.
Prayers Remain Forever Martin Bresnick Starkland