Reviews of Martin Amlin as Composer
Click here for reviews of Martin Amlin as performer.
Martin Amlin is a good man to know if you need something unplayable performed on short notice with enviable ease. Amlin is also a composer of quality...as much a virtuoso in aligning notes as he is in playing them. He likes technical achievements and games — fugues; inversions; retrogrades; rhythmic complexities and quirks; 12-tone rows that don't sound like tone rows; hidden references to Bach, Beethoven, and "Happy Birthday"; variations that lack a theme, so all of them in a set are in effect variations on one another. He likes to bend the rules. In a section of his delightful "South End Rag", the right hand maintains the steady pulse while the left hand rags...The more intricate and compelling games are the ones the ear does not detect; Amlin uses them to create powerful coloristic and emotional effects. All the music — brisk and reflective — is purposeful and effective, and idiomatic for the hand and for the instrument. The Eight Variations, written for intermediate pianists, are particularly ingenious and charming; the "Elegy" in Five Preludes and the movements called "Lament" in the Fourth and Seventh sonatas ignite depth charges in the oblique but unerring way of the music by Fauré that Amlin loves so much...He plays with utter aplomb, and without self-dramatization. One can imagine others wringing more out of this music, but no one else could set it forth with such clarity and structural integrity.
on the Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra
The highlight of the convention for piccoloists was the world premiere of Martin Amlin’s Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra…Divided into five movements, the concerto’s brilliant orchestration creates excitement without ever over-balancing the piccolo.
on The Heavenly Feast
Pianist Martin Amlin, Fulmer's adept and intrepid partner through most of the program, is also the composer of The Heavenly Feast, an eloquent and emotionally immediate description of Simone Weil's fatal hunger strike during World War II.
on the Albany CD "Andrew Willis Plays American Piano Music"
Records International Catalogue:
Amlin belongs to the small but select group of contemporary composer-pianists who write piano music that cannot help but be instrumentally idiomatic and wholly identifiable as belonging to their own individual style because they write with the authority of performers completely versed in the potential of the instrument. Rhythmically incisive though deceptively unstable - he delights in tripping up one's metrical expectations through unexpected irregularity of meter or sudden syncopated accents - and harmonically rich in a basically tonal idiom, Amlin seeks not to expand the vocabulary of the piano through extended technique, but to say new things in a language not fundamentally dissimilar to that of composers of a century ago. If this is conservatism, it doesn't really advertise itself as such, and if his use of traditional forms - variations, fugue - suggests an attachment to the past, his freely rhapsodic treatment of his material, and the hidden mechanisms (including elements of dodecaphony, not rigidly adhered to) speaks of the eclecticism of our times.
American Record Guide, March/April 2005:
At his best Amlin is fluent, fresh, vital, sensuous, poetic... All of these pieces have lots of energy, lots of ideas, indeed lots of notes; his is definitely a " maximalist" aesthetic.... I'd single out for praise the "Lament" (II) of Sonata 7. I also like the modest (in both size and technical demands) Eight Variations, with its clever and sharply contrasted miniature variants (tango, two-part invention, arietta, gigue, and so on) on a slow chorale...
on Time's Caravan
Amlin has found an appropriately luscious style that is at once assured and unstable, unstable enough to depict the uncertainties of life the verses are concerned with, and flexible enough to respond immediately and imaginatively to the wide-ranging imagery of the text…The Chorale obviously loves singing it; so will every other suitably equipped chorus in the land - this piece is destined for long popularity.
on Sonata for Flute and Piano
…it sets the tone of brightness, accessibility, and rhythmic drive that is characteristic of the entire compact disc. The harmonic language is fairly ’conservative modern,’ and contrapuntal dialogue is common.
New York Times:
…an engaging work with a strong rhythmic profile and a lyrical impulse, in which the flute and piano lines are marvelously integrated.
on Sonata for Piccolo and Piano
American Record Guide:
Martin Amlin’s delicate harmonic shadings linger in the mind long after the recording finishes.
This work is a stunning showcase for both [piccolo and piano]. Through its five movements the work explores the piccolo range with lyrical expressiveness and wild agility, and the conversation between piccolo and piano is exquisite.
on Trio Sonatina
The Boston Globe:
Martin Amlin’s Trio Sonatina invested a Rhapsody, Scherzo, Interlude, and Aria with innumerable artful devices to draw you in - a silky shimmer at the start, a cat-and-mouse ferocity in the quick music...a melodic skeleton with drop-dead harmonic tints.
…an astonishing mix of neoclassical and neoromantic elements.
on Piano Sonata No. 7
The texture, tempo, rhythm, and atonal nature of this piece is advanced and exciting.
on Atlantic Serenade
Los Angeles Times:
Falling between acknowledged masterpieces by Haydn and Brahms, Martin Amlin's brand-new "Atlantic Serenade," heard in its world premiere Sunday, held its own more than decently. The quartet for flute, clarinet, cello, and piano commissioned by the Pacific Serenades series - making Amlin's title a sideways pun, or at least a bicoastal one - follows a French sensibility, achieves handsome and Ravelian textures, and offers at least as much emotional nourishment as one can demand of any new work these days.. Its composer, who played the piano in this performance in downtown Los Angeles, seems a skilled writer with plenty of ideas, and enough knowledge of instruments to create idiomatic parts for them...not invariably tonal, often aqueous sounds which follow their own mood-scenario and hold the listener through their unpredictability...