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Donald Martino

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Donald Martino

Donald Martino

Donald Martino (May 16, 1931 – December 8, 2005) was a Pulitzer Prize winning American composer.


  • Biography 1
  • Music 2
  • Musical compositions 3
    • Works for orchestra and concertos 3.1
    • Chamber music 3.2
    • Works for solo instrument 3.3
    • Vocal works 3.4
    • Film scores 3.5
    • Other works 3.6
  • References 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6


Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, Martino began as a clarinettist, playing jazz for fun and profit. He attended Syracuse University, where he studied composition with Ernst Bacon, who encouraged him in that direction. He then attended Princeton University as a graduate student, where worked with composers Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt. He also studied with Luigi Dallapiccola in Italy as a Fulbright Scholar.[1]

He became a lecturer and teacher himself, working with students at Yale University, the New England Conservatory of Music (where he became chair of the composition department), Brandeis University, and Harvard University.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1974 for his chamber work Notturno.

In 1991, the journal Perspectives of New Music published a 292-page tribute to Martino.[2]

Martino died in Antigua in 2005. A memorial concert was held at the New England Conservatory on May 8, 2007. A recording of the concert was released by Navona Records in 2009.


Most of Martino's mature works (including pseudo-tonal works such as Paradiso Choruses and Seven Pious Pieces) were composed using the twelve-tone method; his sound world more closely resembled the lyrical Dallapiccola's than his other teachers'.

The pianist Easley Blackwood commissioned Martino's sonata Pianississimo, explicitly requesting that it be one of the most difficult pieces ever written. The resulting work is indeed of epic difficulty, but has been recorded several times. (Blackwood declined to perform it.)

Martino presented Milton Babbitt with at least two musical birthday cards: B,a,b,b,i,t,t on his 50th birthday and Triple Concerto on his 60th.

Musical compositions

Many of the instrumental pieces have extensive doublings, such as flute/piccolo/alto flute. Principal publishers: Ione, Dantalian, McGinnis & Marx[3]

Works for orchestra and concertos

  • Sinfonia, 1953, withdrawn, unpublished
  • Contemplations, 1956
  • Piano Concerto, 1965
  • Mosaic for Grand Orchestra, 1967
  • Cello Concerto, 1972
  • Ritorno, 1976, arr. for band, 1977
  • Triple Concerto, clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, 1977
  • Divertisements for Youth Orchestra, 1981
  • Alto Sax Concerto, 1987
  • Violin Concerto, 1996
  • Concertino (clarinet and orchestra), 2004
  • Concerto for Orchestra, 2005

Chamber music

  • String Quartet No. 1, withdrawn, unpublished
  • String Quartet No. 2, 1952, withdrawn, unpublished
  • String Quartet Mo. 3, 1954, withdrawn, unpublished
  • Seven Canoni Enigmatici, canons with resolutions (2 violas, 2 ‘cellos/2 bassoons, 1955; string quartet, 1962; 2 clarinets, alto clarinet/basset horn, bass clarinet, 1966, may be combined with version of 1955)
  • String Trio, 1955, withdrawn, unpublished
  • Quartet (clarinet and string trio), 1957
  • Trio (clarinet, violin, piano), 1959
  • Five Frammenti (oboe, double bass), 1961
  • Concerto (wind quintet), 1964
  • Notturno (piccolo/flute/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, viola, ‘cello, piano, percussion), 1973
  • String Quartet [No. 4], 1983
  • Canzone e Tarantella sul Nome Petrassi (clarinet, ‘cello), 1984
  • From the Other Side (flute, ‘cello, piano, percussion), 1988
  • Three Sad Songs (viola, piano), 1991
  • Octet (flute, clarinet, flugelhorn, trombone, percussion, piano, violin, ‘cello), 1998
  • Serenata Concertante (flute, clarinet, flugel horn, French horn, percussion, piano, violin, ‘cello), 1999
  • String Quartet No. 5, 2004
  • Trio (violin, cello, piano), 2004
  • Trio (clarinet, cello, piano), 2004

Works for solo instrument

  • Clarinet Sonata, 1950–51
  • Suite of Variations on Medieval Melodies (‘cello), 1952, rev. 1954
  • A Set (clarinet), 1954, rev. 1974
  • Violin Sonata, 1954
  • Harmonica Piece, 1954
  • Quodlibets (flute), 1954
  • Fantasy (piano), 1958
  • Fantasy-Variations (violin), 1962
  • Parisonatina al’dodecafonia (‘cello), 1964
  • B, A, B, B, IT, T (clarinet with extensions), 1966
  • Strata (bass clarinet), 1966
  • Pianississimo, piano sonata, 1970
  • Impromptu for Roger (piano), 1977
  • Fantasies and Impromptus (piano), 1980
  • Quodlibets II (flute), 1980
  • Suite in Old Form (Parody Suite) (piano), 1982
  • Twelve Preludes (piano), 1991
  • 15, 5, 92, A.B. (clarinet), 1992
  • A Birthday Card for Alea III (clarinet), 1997
  • Romanza (violin), 2000
  • Sonata (violin), 2003
  • Violin Sonata No. 2, 2004

Vocal works

  • Separate Songs (high voice and piano), 1951[4]
  1. All day I hear the noise of waters (James Joyce)
  2. The half-moon westers low, my love (A. E. Housman)
  • From "The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts" (Hilaire Belloc) (high voice and piano), 1952
  1. The Lion, the Tiger
  2. The Frog
  3. The Microbe
  • Portraits: a Secular Cantata (Edna St. Vincent Millay, Walt Whitman, e.e. Cummings) (mezzo-soprano and baritone solos, chorus, orchestra), 1954
  • Arrangement of Anyone lived in a pretty how town (SATB chorus, piano 4 hands, optional percussion, 1955
  • Three Songs (James Joyce) (soprano/tenor or bass, piano), 1955
  1. Alone
  2. Tutto e sciolto (in English)
  3. A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight
  • Two Rilke Songs (mezzo-soprano and piano), 1961
  1. Die Laute
  2. Aus einem Sturmnacht VIII;
  • Seven Pious Pieces (Robert Herrick) (chorus with optional piano/organ), 1972
  • Paradiso Choruses (Dante) (solo voices, chorus, orchestra, tape), 1974
  • The White Island (SATB chorus and chamber orchestra), 1985

Film scores

  • The White Rooster, c1950, unpublished
  • The Lonely Crime, 1958, unpublished

Other works

  • Augenmusik, a Mixed Mediocritique (actress/danseuse/uninhibited female percussionist, tape), 1972
  • Many popular songs and jazz arrangements, all unpublished


  • Los Angeles Times Staff (2005). Los Angeles Times: Obituary of Donald Martino. Retrieved December 25, 2005.
  • Villamil, Victoria Etnier (1993), A Singer's Guide to American Art Song (paperback ed.), Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.,  


  1. ^ Villamil, p. 270
  2. ^
  3. ^ Works list for Donald Martino, Grove online
  4. ^ Villamil calls them both “lyrical, melancholy, atmospheric; good songs”, p. 271

External links

  • Publisher's website
  • Interview with Donald Martino By Bruce Duffie, January 12, 1991
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