Brennan, John Wolf

views updated

Brennan, John Wolf

Brennan, John Wolf, Irish-Swiss composer and pianist; b. Dublin, Feb. 13, 1954. He moved to Switzerland as a youth, and began playing bass and guitar as a teenager in Lucerne. He studied musicology, film, and literature at the Univ. of Fribourg and attended the Swiss Jazz school in Berne (1975–79), continuing his studies in piano, composition, and theory in Lucerne, Dublin, and N.Y. (1979–84). From 1984 Brennan formed various duets, quartets, and quintets with a number of European jazz virtuosos. In 1993 he formed the “Groupe Lacroix” a cooperative of six Swiss and Austrian composers who perform their own works. From the mid-1980s, Brennan worked internationally as a jazz musician, conductor, music director for radio and television, piano teacher, and leader of improvisation workshops. In 1999 he performed in a festival of his works held in Chicago to celebrate Swiss Days. Brennan is a unique musician, equally comfortable in the worlds of jazz and concert music. From an early influence as diverse as Miles Davis and the Beatles, Brennan’s music evolved into a high-art synthesis of John Cage, Henry Cowell, Pierre Henri, and free-jazz, which at times involves theatrical techniques such as musique concrète, bowing of piano strings, and multiphonics. His titles reflect his proclivity for word play.


DRAMATIC Theater Music: Swiss-Timing (1981); Romeo and Julia in Willisau (1982); Festspiel Sem-pach (1986); De Zeigerdieb (1987); Sri Salami (1989); Adrift (1990); K’s Kilimandjaro (1992); Totentanz (1993); Moskau-Petuschki (1994). radio:Wort Zeichen Klang for Voice, Flute, Double Bass, Piano, Sound Objects, and Sound Installation (1995–96; Lucerne, June 13, 1997). chamber:Ex Aequo for Viola and Percussion (1986); Brass Variations for Brass Quintet (1988); Twelfth Night, 6 songs for Saxophone Quartet (1990); Dance, You Monster, to My Soft Song, after the Klee painting, for Jazz Orch. (1990); Sonatina for Viola, Trumpet, Piano, and Contrabass (1991); Tango neon for Ensemble (1991); Átanos for Alto Saxophone, Piano, and Contrabass (1993); Frictions for Flute, Bass Clarinet, Vibraphone, and String Trio (1993); Diálogos for 2 Cellos (1994); Epithalamium for Nonet (1994); A Golly Gal’s Way to Galway Bay for Flute Ensemble (1995); Leave it in Limbo for Horn (1996); Olos for Clarinet (1996); AlefBet for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, or for Piano Trio (1996); Rhap.s.odie for Violin and Piano (1996); Nearly Charming for Octet (1997); Tango for Cello (1998); Monumentum for Bass Clarinet, Piano, and Percussion (1998); N-gl, after an angel painting by Klee, for Oboe, Bassoon, and Viola (1999). keyboard: p i a n o :Treiblinge, 13 pieces (1982); Capriccio (1990); Sonata Pentatonica (1993); 4 solo-piano “programs” of pieces: The Beauty of Fractals (1988), Iritations (1991; with sound objects), Text, Context, Co-Text & Co-Co Text (1993), and The Well-Prepared Clavier for Piano, Partially Prepared (1997–98; includes his cycle Seven Studies for Prepared Piano); Kyoto (1997); Kla4 for 2 Pianos (1999); Silly Blooze (1999–2000). organ:Pandamonium (1994); 5 Interludien (1997); 4 Solo Pieces (1999). vocal:Bestiarium, 13 songs for Soprano and Piano (1983; rev. 1990); Organic VoICes, cycle for Voice and Organ (1990–91; with trumpet and percussion); SprüchGageSprüch, “dialectic cantata” for 2 Choruses, String Quartet, and Percussion (1991); Euratorium for Chorus, Orch., and Alpine Horn (1993); Fraeschber’s Traum for Soprano, String Trio, and Bass Clarinet (1997); Through the Ear of a Raindrop for Voice and 5 Instruments (1997); Abel, steh auf!, cantata for Women’s Chorus and Brass Quartet (1999–2000).

—Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

About this article

Brennan, John Wolf

Updated About content Print Article