Known for music described as "extraordinarily sensitive and beautiful" and "speaking directly to the heart,” composer and pianist Larry Bitensky has been hailed for works that are satisfying for performers and communicative to audiences. With their emotional intensity, directness, lyrical and sinuous melodies, and funky, polyrhythmic grooves, his works range from wistfully nostalgic, deeply sad, and evocative, to exuberant, playful and ecstatic.
Born in 1966 in New York, and educated at Skidmore College, the New England Conservatory of Music, Ithaca College, and Cornell University, Bitensky’s musical personality is rooted in a range of influences. He often seeks to merge the complex structures and expressive range of the classical masters and the innovations of the 20th-century greats with the melodic and rhythmic invention and improvisatory flow of musical traditions from India, Indonesia, the Islamic and Jewish worlds, jazz, and the Grateful Dead. His travels as part of the Centre College study abroad program have also allowed him to explore first hand the musical cultures of Morocco, Spain, Turkey, and Bali.
Bitensky first came to national and international attention with a series of works inspired by Jewish musical tradition and culture. In these he developed a free, quasi-improvisatory lyricism and melodic richness that has become one of his signatures. These works include the award-winning Mishb’rey Yam, a song cycle based on Hebrew texts of the great medieval poet Yehudah Halevi; “ . . . a perfect rest,” an orchestral rhapsody based on the traditional Jewish memorial chant; Awake, You Sleepers!, a concerto for trumpet and wind ensemble based on the sounds of the shofar; and Rapture, a piano work based on Chasidic folk melodies.
He has also received attention for works based on his long association with world-renowned trumpeter Vince DiMartino. These include the widely performed brass quintet For Then and Now, Awake, You Sleepers!, described as "one of the finest additions to the trumpet and wind ensemble repertoire to date;" the polyrhythmic, jazz-infused “From those beginning notes of yearning,” for trumpet and piano; and the comic and macabre The Other Side, for trumpet and chamber ensemble.
A pianist since the age of six, Bitensky’s music is rooted in his sense of what is gratifying for a performer. He regularly returns to the piano as a source of renewal, and he has made numerous contributions to the contemporary piano literature. These include the brooding and melancholy The Alchemy of Solitude, the colorful and varied From the Corner Room, the poetic Scent of the World We Gave Up, Rapture, Shouts and Murmurs, and others.
He has recently received the American Prize for Fearless Critters, a wind ensemble work based on mythical creatures from North American lumberjack folklore, commissioned by the "President's Own" United States Marine Band.
Bitensky’s works have been recognized by numerous foundations and institutions: the American Prize, the Fromm Foundation, the Omaha Symphony, "The President's Own" United States Marine Band, the New England Philharmonic, the Saint Mary's University Kaplan Commissioning Project, the Big Ten Band Commission, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the Columbia Orchestra, Jabez Press, the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Award, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Music Teachers National Association, the Kentucky Music Teachers Association, the American Music Center, the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation, the Friends and Enemies of New Music, the International Trumpet Guild, the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, the Modern Chamber Players, the Harrid Conservatory, the Society of Composers, Inc., Duquesne University New Music Ensemble, Ensemble X, and the ASCAP Foundation Young Composers Competition.
Bitensky is also the pianist for Trace Trio, an experimental improvisation group featuring Bitensky on piano tuned to meantone temperament, guitarist Daniel Worley, and bassist Nathan Link.
Recorded on Beauport Classical, Mark Records and Sea Breeze Vista records, Bitensky's music has been performed by numerous ensembles and at various festivals around North America, Europe, and Asia. His music is published by Silly Black Dog Music.
Bitensky is the W. George Matton Professor of Music at Centre College where he teaches composition, music theory, musicianship, and world music. He lives in Lancaster, Kentucky with his wife Kathy and his silly black dog Chloe.