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“Dreams and Yearnings:” Martin Bresnick’s Prayers Remain Forever

Composer Martin Bresnick's recently-released album "Prayers Remain Forever" is reviewed by I Care If You listen
October 5, 2015

I Care If You Listen | Jarrett GoodchildMartin Bresnick

Composer Martin Bresnick’s Prayers Remain Forever seems to rest at the apex of nihilistic thought and religious comfort. This odd meeting of two conflicting ideas stems from a poem entitled “Gods Come and Go, Prayers Remain Forever” by Yehuda Amichai. It highlights how languages, people, belief systems, and other matters of the physical world will come and go, but that prayers – our “dreams and yearnings” – are the only things that will remain. This premise only scratches the surface of how deep this collection of chamber and solo works really goes. Each piece pulls the listener into a sound world all its own.

The first track, Going Home – Vysoke, My Jerusalem was inspired by two distinct memories of Bresnick’s. The first was learning to play the oboe as a child and the second was visiting his grandparents. Every visit, his grandmother would recall how her entire family was murdered in their homeland of Visoke Litovsk. Despite the dark imagery, the work is surprisingly hopeful, and Double Entendre’s blend is impressive on this track. They all seem to leave room for each instrument to stand out and then recede back into the fabric easily. The piece starts with the oboist Christa Robinson and violinist Caelb Burhans playing in the tense upper registers of their instrument immediately establishing a tense mood. The violist John Pickford Richards and cellist Brian Snow initially resolve this tension but add to it as the piece progresses. In the end, Robinson’s klezmer-like turns and melodies against the straining of the string trio leaves the listener emotionally raw.

The album concludes with its title track, Prayers Remain Forever. Each section of the piece has such distinct characters, and TwoSense’s sound is rich and executed with incredible precision. The introduction is reflective and long with cellist Ashley Bathgate playing intense notes resting in a high register. Crunchy chords are interspersed behind it almost randomly. The next few sections are propelled forward by running 16th note figures by Bathgate, then by Lisa Moore on piano, but throughout the work there is a persistent level of intensity that is in constant flux. Bathgate and Moore’s abilities are put on full display in this piece and the female duo holds nothing back.

Martin Bresnick’s Prayers Remain Forever is an incredible collection of works that vary as much in style and mood than any other composer I’ve heard. The depth of the music and Bresnick’s ability to pull the listener all the way down into those depths is impressive. What’s more, the paradoxical thoughts behind the music are imbedded in the compositions. Truly a must listen for lovers of well-crafted music.