Death of an American composer, 89

Death of an American composer, 89


norman lebrecht

March 10, 2021

The death has been announced of Martin (Marty) Boykan, a month short of his 90th birthday.

He composed with an awareness of serial technique, founded the Brandeis Chamber Ensemble and served for a year as pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His greatest influence was as a teacher at Brandeis.

James Ricci writes:

Marty Boykan was a fabulous composer, teacher, and mentor – not only to me, but to countless musicians who were fortunate enough to study with him at Brandeis over the 50+ years of his tenure there. He was without a doubt the finest musician I have ever encountered. He could sight-read an array of complex music that composition students would bring into class. Private lessons and classes with him were always riveting, insightful, and intense…

I’ll never forget the semester-long class in 1980 where Marty took a deep dive into the intricate details of Schoenberg’s String Trio. It provided a profound and enhanced perspective that I had never encountered in an analysis class before. Marty knew the entirety of the inner-workings of the piece by heart, and spoke about it with an authority that was probably clearer than what Schoenberg would have articulated about the music himself.


  • John Borstlap says:

    Here is some of his music:

    The Violin Concerto is expressive music, harking back to the troubled world of the romantic variety of Viennese expressionism (like Alban Berg’s), the sounds of a great tradition’s death agony. So he was looking back to a fascinating period of the past to learn from it, and very successfully. And it has its own personal stamp.

    The chamber music is full of frustration and stagnation, aptly reflecting our own times. But well-made.

  • Michael Schiano says:

    I was in that class. Among other things, it taught me how much someone could really internalize a piece.