Bruce Brubaker
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Bruce Brubaker

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Classical New Age


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"Nico Muhly work to be given world premiere at Gilmore International Keyboard Festival"

"Muhly's Drones and Piano will be performed by Bruce Brubaker ..." - Muso

"The Jewel in the Fish"

"...the segue, as played by Bruce Brubaker, was like a unification of all musics. In other words, honest joy."

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The Jewel in the Fish

New York
Le Poisson Rouge, 162 Bleecker Street
08/09/2010 -
Philip Glass: Etude No. 4 – Etude No. 5
Nico Muhly: Drones & Piano (New York premiere)
John Cage: Dream
Alvin Curran: Inner Cities 2

Bruce Brubaker (Piano)

The reputation of Bruce Brubaker is more than legendary. Like David Tudor two generations ago, Mr. Brubaker is an icon for music of our time, having premiered works by Philip Glass, John Cage and (last night) Nico Muhly, amongst many others.

This was my first live recital with Mr. Brubaker, and the single hour spent in Le Poisson Rouge was like the visit to a Fifth Avenue jewelry store. Not that I’ve ever been to such an establishment, but I would imagine that the sonority, the whispering pianissimi, and the unerring way he metathesized convolution into meditation was radiating

Not that the mini-recital was faultless. Le Poisson Rouge does have the problem of being a bar-café, and during the most tranquil moments, waitpeople would have to t..i..p..t..o..e so softly, and set the drinks oh so quietly on the table. Add to that a large screen in the background which erratically gave off the wrong video images at the wrong time.

None of those distractions distracted Mr. Brubaker, who, from the first notes, set an almost mystical mood. The initial work was an unlikely John Cage, his Dream. Those who know Mr. Cage from his aleatory Music for Radios or 4’33” don’t realize that even in his latest years he could produce some lyrical even lulling music. Dream was a peripatetic keyboard romance, with a languorous pedal-down resonance verging on a schmaltz, though nmever going over the edge. (Could I compare moments of Cage to moments of Rachmaninoff without readers throwing up? Okay!)

The first Philip Glass Etude continued this informal tranquility, though the second Etude was more Glass style of subtle percussive repetition.

Mr. Brubaker’s third piece was a group of five short pieces by Nico Muhly, whose Stride was recently played by the Voxare Quartet. That work was pleasantly unchallenging. His Drones and Piano was peripherally more ambitious, since each of the five pieces, inspired by (sometimes quoting) Haydn was accompanied by a different electronic drone in the background. Like all the music last night, Mr. Muhly presented deceivingly simple piano works–one with chorale, others with pleasant even seductive themes–stilling, if never tranquilizing the listener.

The last piece, which seemed the longest (I’ve never had a timepiece, so must depend on psychic durations) was by that wonderful writer, Alvin Curran. (I use “writer” in the literal sense, since he describes his musical adventures in Europe like an asexual Ned Rorem on steroids.)

He has written countless “Inner City” pieces, but this, his second, was so cryptic that it took me an hour to figure out–possibly–what it was all about.

Most of the music consisted of three notes in a row, followed by an out-of-place note either a ninth or tenth about them. With the slightest variants, they were repeated over and over again. The note variants were welcome. But the time variations were fascinating. And here Mr. Brubaker was unassailable. The rests were for a quaver or a hemidemisemiquaver, or none at all. The tension was palpable to a degree, until it began to get boring.

And then Mr. Curran sprang the surprise. A bit of harmony thickening, I began to hum to myself, “My heart is sad and lonely, For you I cry….”

Yes, it was Johnny Green’s great jazz-pop tune, Body and Soul. Just a few bars, cocktail piano style before the original notes. But what were those few bars doing in this minimalist music?

On the way back, I was musing on Mr. Brubaker’s genius, when the first notes of Curran’s music came back–and I realized that those mutant intervals were almost the same as Body and Soul itself. I don’t know Mr. Curran’s purpose, but the segue, as played by Bruce Brubaker, was like a unification of all musics

In other words, honest joy.

Harry Rolnick -

"CD: Bruce Brubaker, 'Time Curve'"

Bruce Brubaker has emerged in recent years as one of the most sensitive and probing interpreters of minimalist and post-minimalist piano music, and in William Duckworth's "Time Curve Preludes" he has tackled a masterpiece fully worthy of his gifts. In this set of 24 short solo pieces from 1978-79 - only half of them included here, unfortunately - Duckworth works through a series of distinctive rhythmic and harmonic ideas, shaping each one with a degree of structural clarity that contrasts with the textural haze produced by open piano strings. The result is a heady mix of rhapsodic lilt and fierce urgency with Erik Satie as the guiding spirit, and Brubaker delivers the music with his usual understated eloquence. The same qualities inform Philip Glass' "Six Etudes for Piano," which begin the disc in a shapely and vigorous rendition. - Joshua Kosman




$11.99 - San Francisco Chronicle

"Modern Pieces, Classically Performed"

" . . . like driving fast with the windows down, listening to the sound change according to the road’s surface and the proximity of other objects."

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Few pianists approach Philip Glass’s music with the level of devotion and insight that Bruce Brubaker brings to it, precisely the reason he gets so much expressivity out of it. On Wednesday night at the Stone, a small experimental-music space on the Lower East Side, Mr. Brubaker performed two of Mr. Glass’s major piano works as well as compositions by William Duckworth and Alvin Curran.

In an introduction from the stage, Mr. Brubaker said that Mr. Glass’s “Mad Rush,” from 1979, conveys the perception of two speeds at once while driving, by alternating between forward and sidelong views. That observation works well enough for a piece in which blocks of slow and fast activity simply repeat in alternation. Mr. Brubaker played with a beautiful, even tone and shaped phrases with subtlety.

Mr. Glass’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” from 1988, was inspired by a 1966 Allen Ginsberg poem of the same name about railroad trains crossing the Midwest, bearing missiles bound for Vietnam. The opening sequence is as plain-spoken as a gospel hymn. What follows, though technically as flat and objective as “Mad Rush,” suggests by turns Ginsberg’s “cushioned load of metal doom” and a train chugging along under a clear Kansas sky big as eternity.

Mr. Duckworth’s “Time Curve Preludes,” composed in 1978 and 1979, have been cited as the starting point for post-Minimalism: music that takes its lead from the diatonic tonality and repetitive rhythms of Minimalism but deviates in matters of duration and style. What unites these 24 succinct pieces are the harmonic drones that ring and ripple quietly throughout each, created by placing metal weights on bass keys.

But each prelude has its own profile. The five that Mr. Brubaker played — Nos. 1, 2, 5, 6 and 11, all from Book 1 — suggested the coruscating spirals of gamelan, Debussy’s luminous mystery, Ligeti’s prickly intensity and more. That this collection isn’t more widely recognized as one of the 20th century’s major piano works is puzzling; perhaps Mr. Brubaker’s assured advocacy will help redress that slight.

Mr. Brubaker’s hands were a blur as he drummed chords in rapid alternation during Mr. Curran’s “Hope Street Tunnel Blues III” (1983), with one or another finger occasionally popping out to spear a note. To borrow Mr. Brubaker’s earlier automotive reference, this was like driving fast with the windows down, listening to the sound change according to the road’s surface and the proximity of other objects.

After taking a moment to recover, Mr. Brubaker provided an encore: from 1988, Mr. Glass’s tranquil “Metamorphosis Two.” - New York Times

"Feeding Those Young And Curious Listeners"

"a rapt audience let the silence linger, then broke into whoops and cheers."

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On Monday night the pianist Bruce Brubaker, who has championed Minimalist and post-Minimalist composers, played a solo program of subdued works drawn from his new recording, “Time Curve” (Arabesque). He opened with “The Time Curve Preludes,” Book 1, by the American composer William Duckworth. Written in the late 1970s, these pieces subtly combine haunting repetitive patterns with hints of diverse musical idioms, like scat singing, Bartok dances and medieval chant.

As Mr. Brubaker explained to the audience, the preludes require the performer to place narrow metal weights on various keys in the piano’s low register. This lifts the dampers on the selected notes, allowing the strings to resonate sympathetically as nearby keys are struck, creating a backdrop of continuous, softly droning sound.

Mr. Brubaker concluded his program with sensitive performances of ruminative pieces by Philip Glass: the Étude No. 5 and “Metamorphosis Two.” When the undulant chord patterns of the final work faded away, a rapt audience let the silence linger, then broke into whoops and cheers. One person shouted, “Thank you.”

A good start to Year 2 at Le Poisson Rouge.

- New York Times


Time Curve (Arabesque)
Hope Street Tunnel Blues (Arabesque)
Inner Cities (Arabesque)
glass cage (Arabesque)
Brahms/Wagner/Steuermann (Vital Music)



Profiled on NBC’s Today show, Bruce Brubaker’s piano playing, writing, and collaborations show a shining, and sometimes surprising future for pianists and piano playing.

Brubaker has gone far beyond the traditional "concert pianist." Through the genre-crossing of the internet, and alternative venues, he connects with a wide audience. His fans are lovers of many genres of music -- from Radiohead to Vampire Weekend, or Max Richter!

Brubaker is a frequent performer at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge. Pulitzer-Prize-winning Washington Post critic Tim Page said: “I wouldn't trade Pollini, Argerich, Richard Goode, Peter Serkin or Bruce Brubaker (to mention a terrific younger artist) for any handful of Horowitzes!” Brubaker was presented by Carnegie Hall at Zankel Hall in New York, at Trifolion in Echternach, at Michigan’s Gilmore Festival, and at Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Arts, as the opening-night performer in the museum’s acclaimed new Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed building. His blog “PianoMorphosis” appears at

Bruce Brubaker’s CDs for Arabesque include Time Curve, Hope Street Tunnel Blues (featuring Brubaker’s transcription of a portion of Philip Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach), Inner Cities, and the first CD in the series, glass cage, named one of the best releases of the year by The New Yorker magazine.

Brubaker has premiered music by Glass, Nico Muhly, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and John Cage. Following his New York debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Brubaker was awarded a solo artist grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His London debut at the Wigmore Hall led to his first broadcast concert on the BBC. Brubaker has appeared at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival at Avery Fisher Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Tanglewood, London’s Wigmore Hall, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, Antwerp’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Finland’s Kuhmo Festival.

Bruce Brubaker has appeared on RAI in Italy and is featured in the documentary film about the Juilliard School, made for the PBS “American Masters Series.” Brubaker trained at Juilliard where he has hosted public conversations with Philip Glass, Milton Babbitt, and Meredith Monk.