Martin Boykan studied composition with Walter Piston, Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith, and piano with Eduard Steuermann. He received a BA from Harvard University, 1951, and MM from Yale University, 1953. In 1953-55 he was in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship. Until 1970, he was active as a pianist, appearing with soloists such as Joseph Silverstein and Jan de Gaetani. At present Boykan is an Emeritus Professor of Music, Brandeis University.
Boykan has written for a wide variety of instrumental combinations including 4 string quartets, a concerto for large ensemble, many trios, duos and solo works, song cycles for voice and piano as well as instrumental ensembles and choral music. His symphony for orchestra and baritone solo was premiered by the Utah Symphony in 1993, and his concerto for violin and orchestra was premiered by Curt Macomber in 2008 with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose. His work is widely performed and has been presented by almost all of the current new music ensembles including the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, The New York New Music Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, the League/ISCM, Earplay, Musica Viva and Collage New Music.
He received the Jeunesse Musicales award for his String Quartet No.1 in 1967 and the League/ISCM award for Elegy in 1982. Other awards include a Rockefeller grant, NEA award, Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright, as well as a recording award and the Walter Hinrichsen Publication Award from the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1994 he was awarded a Senior Fulbright to Israel. He has received numerous commissions from chamber ensembles as well as commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, and the Fromm Foundation. In 2011 Boykan was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York. Professor Boykan has been Composer-in-Residence at the Composer’s Conference, Visiting Professor at Columbia University, and Composer-in-Residence at New York University and Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Isreal. His music is published by Mobart Music Press, and C. F. Peters, NYC.
Martin Boykan has called his Elegy “a sustained meditation on a familiar theme: loss, rejection, the suffering that flows from passionate experience.” This theme yields an overarching emotional dynamic, a two-part progression from direct, almost uncontrollable experiences of despair to memorialization, self-containment, and acceptance. Correspondingly, the seven poems of the cycle divide into two parts, 3 + 4, in which the movements of the second half respond variously to those of the first, until the final movement, which stands as a peroration to the set as a whole.
These overarching emotional dynamics and their formal correlatives play out throughout the Elegy in many ways and on multiple structural levels. The work moves from asymmetrical forms in the first half to balanced, strophic forms in the second. The large-scale emotional dynamic also seems to control the nature and flow of cadential articulations throughout the piece. In section I., we find cadences that are truncated or otherwise thwarted by exhaustion and ambiguity. These lead to points of clarity, closure, and release, in section II., with its persistently strophic formal regularities.