David Bruce (composer)

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David Bruce (born 1970) is a British composer.


Bruce began his undergraduate studies in music in 1988 at the University of Nottingham, where his composition tutors included Jim Fulkerson and Nicholas Sackman. He continued his study at the Royal College of Music from 1991 to 1993, where he obtained a master's degree in Composition, studying with Timothy Salter and George Benjamin; and a PhD in Composition at King's College London between 1995 and 1999, under the supervision of Harrison Birtwistle.[1]

In recent years[when?] Bruce has been developing an international reputation as a composer, with his work being performed by leading musicians from around the world, including soprano Dawn Upshaw, klezmer pioneer Giora Feidman and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Upshaw in particular has played an important role in bringing Bruce's music to the attention of a wider audience, instigating the commission for his opera A Bird in Your Ear, and performing his song-cycle Piosenki at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere. Upshaw was also the soloist in a new song-cycle with ensemble, The North Wind was a Woman, commissioned for the Gala opening of the 2009 season by the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center.[citation needed]

Other recent[when?] commissions include Gumboots, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for clarinetist Todd Palmer and the St Lawrence String Quartet, and scheduled for further performances[needs update] in Australia, Belgium, England, and the US; Groanbox for New York's Metropolis Ensemble featuring The Groanbox Boys; and Caja de Musica for Concert Artists Guild Winner Bridget Kibbey's Carnegie Hall recital debut.[citation needed]

Bruce's work in opera has attracted considerable attention. His one-act opera A Bird in Your Ear (2008) was commissioned by Bard College, NY and after its premiere has had performances by New York City Opera as part of the 2009 Vox festival; as a finalist in the National Opera Association's Chamber Opera competition 2008; and with students at NYU. The New York Times described A Bird in Your Ear as "skillfully written and imaginative".[2]

Bruce's earlier chamber opera Push! was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation and premiered by Tête à Tête in London and went on tour in the UK in 2006. Push! was Critic's Choice for 2006 in both The Telegraph and Classical Music Magazine.[citation needed] Other previous commissions include a series of mini-operas – Out of the Ordinary, for The Opera Group, Has it Happened Yet? (2002) for ENO Studios and Tête à Tête; Seven Tons of Dung for Tête à Tête (1999); incidental music to the Trestle Theatre Company's show The Smallest Person (2004); and instrumental pieces for the London Sinfonietta, BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Presteigne Festival and the Lake District Summer Music Festival.[citation needed]

Bruce was awarded the Lili Boulanger Memorial Award in 2008,[3] after a nomination by Osvaldo Golijov (a previous nomination in 1998 came from Sir Harrison Birtwistle); other prizes include the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Competition in 1994, the Adam Prize (King's College) and the Herberts Howells Prize (RCM).[citation needed] In December 2010 it was announced that Bruce had been selected as one of twenty composers to participate in the New Music 20x12 project as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.[4] The resulting work, Fire, premiered at Salisbury International Arts Festival on 26 May 2012.[5]

In 2011, another commission for Carnegie Hall, the octet Steampunk, was premiered by Ensemble ACJW at Skidmore College.[6][7][8][9]

Recent and current work[edit]

  • Nothing, opera, with a libretto by Glyn Maxwell, based on the novel by Janne Teller. Co-commissioned by Glyndebourne and Royal Opera House, Première at Glydebourne on 25 February 2016.
  • The Firework-Maker's Daughter, chamber opera, with a libretto by Glyn Maxwell, was premièred at Hull Truck in March 2013 and toured the UK and New York in April and May 2013. It was revived at Royal Opera House, December 2015.
  • Cut the Rug, commissioned by Silk Road Ensemble and recorded on the album 'A Playlist without Borders' (Sony). Première at Carnegie Hall on 16 October 2013.
  • Night Parade, commissioned by San Diego Symphony. Première at Carnegie Hall on 29 October 2013.
  • That Time with You, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and Kelley O'Connor. For mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor. Première at Carnegie Hall on 29 October 2013.
  • Fire, commissioned by The Opera Group. One of 20 pieces commissioned for the UK Cultural Olympiad '20x12' series. Premiered in May 2012 at Salisbury Festival

Selected works[edit]


Chamber Works

  • Cymbeline (mandolin and string quartet) (2013)
  • Steampunk (mixed octet) (2011)
  • The Given Note (clarinet, violin, guitar, bass, cello) (2011)
  • The Eye of Night (flute, harp, viola) (2011)
  • Saudades (Two Tangos for mixed quintet) (2010)
  • The North Wind was a Woman (soprano and ensemble) (2009)
  • Gumboots (clarinet quintet) (2008)
  • Piosenki (soprano, baritone and ensemble) (2007)

Orchestral Works

  • Sidechaining (Symphony Orchestra) (2018)
  • Violin Concerto "Fragile Light" (Violin and Symphony Orchestra) (2014)
  • Night Parade (Symphony Orchestra) (2013)
  • Prince Zal and the Simorgh (Symphony Orchestra with narrator) (2012)
  • Two Dowland Laments (Mezzo-Soprano and String Orchestra) (2011)

Other Works

  • Caja de Musica (solo harp) (2009)
  • Fire (large choir, four horns) (2012)
  • Sports et Divertissements (arrangement of Satie) (2010)


  1. ^ CompositionToday Interview with David Bruce, compositiontoday.com; accessed 9 November 2014.
  2. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/arts/music/05vox.html?_r=0
  3. ^ https://www.umb.edu/lili_boulanger/past_winners
  4. ^ "2012 Cultural Olympiad composers named". Gramophone. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  5. ^ https://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/music/eventrecords/2012/fire.aspx
  6. ^ "Carnegie Hall Premieres to present new work by David Bruce". Skidmore College. 28 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Ensemble ACJW premieres 'Steampunk'at Skidmore". The Saratogian. 31 January 2011.
  8. ^ Gia Vaccarezza (4 February 2011). "Ensemble ACJW returns to campus". Skidmore News.
  9. ^ David Bruce (November 2010). "David Bruce's Carnegie Hall commission, Steampunk" (Full 22-minute piece in five movements, streamable). David Bruce. Retrieved 4 February 2011.

External links[edit]