A Winter’s Tale from Brian Burman

As part of our week exploring the musical impact of Shakespeare, the SSO Chamber Ensemble is exploring chamber works inspired by the plays of the bard.  And we’re thrilled to be performing Brian Burman’s Winter’s Tale.

Brian Burman was grew up in Los Gatos, California, on the edge of what today is known as Silicon Valley. An avid cartoonist since early childhood, he began official art studies at Humboldt State University in 1979, and after a few semesters changed to a major in Film Production. At the same time he was studying piano and composition, as well as performing with the school Big Band and several jazz ensembles.

Temporarily interrupting his formal education, in 1982 he moved to Santa Cruz to start a Rock/Jazz Fusion band with friends, and began composing classical chamber music. His first chamber works were performed with the Santa Cruz New Music Works in 1983. In 1984 he decided to continue his film studies at San Francisco State University, and completed a BA in Film Production, following it up with a Masters’ diploma in 1994.

He had always composed the music for his own films, and other film students began asking him to compose for theirs as well. It became clear that film was the place to unite his passions for visual art and music, with editing as the key to the synthesis.

Upon completion of his Masters in Film Production in 1994, Burman emigrated to Switzerland. After a year toiling in a low budget video studio, he was hired by the state sponsored Swiss Television SRF, where he is employed to this day. He is mostly editing documentaries and reports on art, music and culture in general, writing online articles and making video reports on film history, as well as composing music for documentaries. Alongside his work at television, he  freelances as a video director, with such varied employers as the Rose d’Or television festival, the Catholic Church of Kanton Zug (making video portraits of art objects and historical relics), and election spots for the Green Party. He has continued composing music for theatre and dance performances, as well as classical music for concert performance. His works have been performed in the Luxembourg Philharmonic, the Mainz Ballet and the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Germany), and many theatres in Switzerland.

In 2006 Burman  received a commission from the Zürich Conservatory of Music, which was soon to be fusioned together with the Theater School and the College of Arts into the Zürich Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK). The commission was for a work for Conservatory students to perform in a production together with actors the theatre school, which had never been done before, under the direction of Seraina Sievi. Brian chose a Woodwind Quintet, for music to Shakespeare’s play “The Winter’s Tale”.  At the same time, he was directing a documentary for Swiss Television on the Film Music of Dmitri Shostakovich, and deeply immersed in his music for theatre and film versions of various Shakespeare plays, which ended up having a strong influence on the music. The story’s settings in Sicily and Bohemia (the modern day Czech Republic) summoned shades of Corelli, Dvořák and Bartók. The piece was revised in 2018, and our performance on February 3 will be it’s premiere in a concert setting.

We can’t wait for you to hear this incredible work!

Leave a Comment