David Bruce


Born in Stamford, Connecticut in 1970, David Bruce grew up in England and now enjoys a growing reputation on both sides of the Atlantic. Bruce’s music draws on the wild dances and heart-felt laments of gypsy music, flamenco, klezmer and other folk traditions, as well as having a direct connection to composers like Stravinsky, Janacek, Berio and Bartok who shared similar passions. Often witty and always colourful, pulsing with earthy rhythms, Bruce’s music has a directness rarely heard in contemporary music, but also contains an emotional core of striking intimacy and sensitivity.

Since the premiere of Piosenki (2006) in Carnegie Hall, Bruce’s career in the US has flourished. Carnegie Hall itself has been a huge supporter of Bruce’s music, going on to commission Gumboots (2008), Steampunk (2011) and most recently That Time with You for mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor which premiered at the hall in October 2013. In 2009, Dawn Upshaw premiered the song-cycle The North Wind was a Woman commissioned for the gala opening of the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center’s 2009 season. For 2013-14 Bruce was Associate Composer with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, for whom he wrote three pieces : Night Parade for the orchestra’s Carnegie Hall debut in October 2013; the Violin Concerto Fragile Light for Gil Shaham ; and Cymbeline featuring mandolinist Avi Avital. Future US commissions include from Camerata Pacifica for a new work featuring renowned oboist Nicholas Daniel.

In the UK, recent commissions include Prince Zal and the Simorgh (2012) for the London Philharmonic Orchestra for their BrightSparks series; Fire (2012), one of 20 ’20×12′ commissions celebrating the Cultural Olympiad; and the chamber opera The Firework Maker’s Daughter (2012) co-commissioned by The Opera Group and ROH2 which toured the UK and New York’s New Victory Theatre in Spring 2013.

Other notable recent commissions include a 35 minute chamber work The Given Note (2011) for violinist Daniel Hope together with the David Orlowsky Trio and cellist Vincent Segal, co-commissioned by the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, Germany and the Savannah Festival USA; and in 2012, Cut the Rug for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Cut the Rug was recorded for the Sony Classical label and released in December 2013. The piece received it’s official premiere at Carnegie Hall in October 2013 as part of the ensemble’s 15th anniversary celebrations.

Bruce’s love of folk music often leads him to collaborate with musicians who have strong connections with both classical and folk/world traditions, such as accordionist Michael Ward-Bergeman, mandolinist Avi Avital and clarinettist David Orlowsky. Bruce also enjoys close working relationships with some of the finest musicians of the younger generation including Ensemble ACJW; harpist Bridget Kibbey; the grammy-nominated Metropolis Ensemble in New York; Chroma in the UK; and Art of Elan in San Diego (whose recording of their 2011 commission The Eye of Night was recently released).

Bruce’s work in opera has also attracted considerable attention. A series of short operas for Tete a Tete in London culminated in the Genesis Foundation commission Push! (2006) which was Critic’s Choice for 2006 in both The Telegraph and Classical Music Magazine and received universal critical acclaim. In 2008, Dawn Upshaw instigated the commission for his one-act opera A Bird in Your Ear (2008) for Bard College, NY. 2013 brought Bruce’s chamber opera The Firework Maker’s Daughter which again received enormous acclaim with critics and audiences in the US and UK and was shortlisted for both the British Composer Awards, and the 2014 Olivier Awards for Best New Opera Production. The Firework Maker’s Daughter returns to the ROH Lindbury Studios for a 27-performance run in December 2015. Bruce is currently working on ‘Nothing’ – a new large scale opera after the book by Janne Teller, co-commissioned by Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House, which premieres at Glyndebourne in Feb 2016

Bruce’s music has attracted numerous awards and prizes, including the Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize (2008) and the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Competition (1994). He studied at Nottingham University, the Royal College of Music, London, (with Tim Salter and George Benjamin); and completed a PhD in Composition at King’s College, London (1995-9), under the supervision of Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

Complementing his work as a composer, Bruce runs the music and technology company Red Balloon Technology Ltd whose sites include the popular sheet music site 8notes.com and the composers’ site CompositionToday.