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Classical 101

VIVO Music Festival Premieres New Work By Columbus Composer

VIVO Music Festival performs at Cols Museum of Art 2018 - Photo by Siwoo Kim.jpg
Siwoo Kim
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VIVO Music Festival performs at Columbus Museum of Art in 2018

An aspiring composer spends countless hours listening to and learning about music, waiting for inspiration to strike and writing new pieces – with no guarantee of success. Columbus composer Benjamin Martin’s dedication will pay off, though, when one of his works is premiered at this year’s VIVO Music Festival next week.

Martin’s Illustration for soprano and chamber ensemble will be premiered Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Columbus Museum of Art’s Debry Court. The concert will also include the U.S. premiere of contemporary composer Matthias Pintscher’s Beyond II: Bridge Over Troubled Water and works by Debussy, Ravel and Anton Webern.

Martin is a Bexley High School graduate and senior music composition major at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He was invited to compose Illustration for this year’s VIVO Music Festival as a recipient of the festival’s Innovation Grant. The grant encouraged young central Ohio classical music students to have a positive community impact during the pandemic by creating outreach and programming ideas for the festival to implement.

In his grant application, Martin proposed to compose a new piece of music in collaboration with artists in other disciplines. VIVO Music Festival Co-Artistic Director John Stulz invited Martin to set a poem by a Columbus poet in a new musical work that the festival musicians would premiere.

Benjamin Martin
Christopher Keels
Benjamin Martin

Martin’s Illustration sets a poem of the same tile by Columbus poet Maggie Smith, author of seven poetry collections and the widely disseminated poem “Good Bones.”

“The poem itself is about how much parents share with their children of the complex and sometimes maybe bleak aspects of the world,” Martin said. “The topic, I thought, was incredibly poignant, because, as we’re rather seeing, the world is incredibly complex and sometimes, indeed, vacuous seeming.”

Martin says his work’s unusual instrumentation – soprano, bass clarinet, string quartet and harp – was in part inspired by Ravel’s beloved Introduction and Allegro, composed for similar performing forces. In particular, the celestial sounds of the harp and the midnight hues of the bass clarinet bring Martin’s musical interpretation of Smith’s poem to life.

“The harp has this ability to create these sparkling instrumentational colors that lend themselves to starlike sounds. And I just love the bass clarinet, just selfishly. I think that it’s a rich and gorgeous sound.

Currently in its seventh season, Columbus’ annual VIVO Music Festival features world-class professional musicians – many originally from Columbus – in several days of chamber music performances and community outreach events.

According to Martin, the VIVO Festival’s world premiere of Illustration marks a new stage in his career as a composer.

“This is certainly my debut with professional musicians in the Columbus area, certainly my first piece being performed at a venue, about which I’m incredibly excited,” Martin said. “All of the musicians at VIVO are of such a high caliber, so that to me is just a very specific joy. This is a big one for me, for sure.”

Information about this year’s VIVO Music Festival is at vivofestival.org.