Composer Steve Martland, described by his publisher as ‘one of the outstanding voices in British music since the mid-eighties’ and whose career was marked by a breadth of styles and collaborators, has died at the age of 53.
Martland studied with Louis Andriessen and wrote mainly for chamber groups, including his own Steve Martland Band, working extensively in Europe. His major orchestral work Babi Yar was premiered by the St Louis Symphony under Leonard Slatkin in the US and in the UK by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Nicolas Cleobury, in 1983.
Babi Yar was subsequently recorded for Factory records and a second album, Crossing the Border, was released in 1992.
Lotta continua… for chamber orchestra and jazz band was premiered by the Contemporary Chamber Orchestra under Odaline de la Martinez in 1984.
A statement by his publisher, Schott Music, called him ‘a unique figure, an independent, questioning spirit who inspired a generation of younger musicians.
‘His lifetime preoccupation was with the function of the composer in society.
‘His works for string ensembles, especially Crossing the Border, are absolutely within the tradition of the great English music of Vaughan Williams, Tippett and Britten. His dancing, driven works for his ensemble carry titles from William Blake like Horses of Instruction and Eternal Delight and have been taken up by ensembles all over the world.’
Music journalist Tom Service wrote: ‘Like the man himself, Martland’s music is joyfully, wilfully energetic, it’s riotously noisy, and brazenly, brilliantly brash; it’s occasionally complex, but more often than not it’s gleefully approachable, and it’s never anything but engagingly, viscerally compelling.’
Martland was an artistic director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (spnm) and founded Strike Out, a summer composition course for schoolchildren who would otherwise have lacked such opportunities to write music.
Steve Martland, composer, 10 October 1959-6 May 2013.