May 16, 1931 - December 8, 2005
born in Plainfield, NJ, composed during the Contemporary period
Donald Martino was one of the most highly regarded American composers to emerge from the post-World War II era's fascination with mathematically directed musical structures. Even so, his music maintains a communicative dimension that is particularly evident in his flair for exciting solo instrumental parts. At the age of nine, Martino began studying clarinet, saxophone, and oboe. In high school he decided to become a professional clarinetist and started composing at the age of 15. In 1948, he began studies at Syracuse University where he took composition lessons with Ernst Bacon. After obtaining his bachelor of music degree in 1952, he went on to graduate school at Princeton University, where his initial plan was to study history. Composition soon became more appealing, and he switched to a master of fine arts program. His main teachers there were Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt, and he was soon awarded a Koussevitzky Fellowship. After obtaining his degree in 1954, he received a Fulbright Scholarship and went to Italy to study with Luigi Dallapiccola. Dallapiccola's mature and highly expressive 12-tone style was influential to the emerging Martino.
On his return to the United States in 1956, Martino taught at the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City, taking additional work playing jazz and writing arrangements. In 1959, he obtained a professorship at Yale University, which he held for ten years while teaching summers at Tanglewood. Throughout this period, the expressive aspects of his music became increasingly pronounced as he grew confident enough to add personal elements to the systematic 12-tone style he had used from the beginning of his career. This development was a result of his growing admiration for Romantic-era composers. He said that he responded "very powerfully" to Chopin, Schumann, and Verdi, but that it was Brahms and Beethoven to whom he turned "as a model of creation." In 1969 he accepted the chairmanship of the composition department at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. In 1974, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his chamber work Notturno, for flutes, clarinets, violin, viola, cello, and piano. He founded Dantalian, Inc. in 1978 to publish his own music. In addition to his music in an advanced classical idiom, he wrote numerous jazz compositions, 178 harmonizations of chorales by J.S. Bach, and a series of transcriptions for clarinet and piano. He was also the inventor of the Stringograph, an aid to composers and arrangers for writing string parts. In 1980 he was named the Irving Fine Professor of Music at Brandeis University. In 1983 he moved to Harvard University as a professor of composition, and was appointed to the Walter Bigelow Rosen Chair in 1989. He won three Guggenheim fellowships, and in 1987, was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Donald Martino died December 8, 2005, en route to Antigua. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi