Interestingly, the work that tried to please the least was the most compelling. Hayes Biggs’ piece Ave Formosissima harkens back to the dance-mad, melismatic and slightly raucous music of the Middle Ages. But the score, with its zig-zagging lines and pungent dissonances, is genuinely contemporary.”

—New York Times

A Consuming Fire, a short, zesty trio by Hayes Biggs, led off the evening. The piece is framed by some engagingly angular rhythmic writing, with a lyrical nougat at the center.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

[The] most convincing and coherent performance [was] Hayes Biggs’ homage to his composer/pianist colleague Eric Moe, E.M. am Flügel, a short piece with romantic gestures and echoes of Berg and Stravinsky.”

—Aufbau

The Mass for All Saints would be an exciting challenge for those choirs skilled in precise intonation and rhythmic agility. Biggs writes with knowledge of and respect for the expressive capabilities of the human voice.”

—Choral Journal

Hayes Biggs’s wedding motet Tota Pulchra Es, here being sung for the first time, impressed by its quiet solemnity and neat working of its expressive opening motif: not empty fanfares but a reminder of the seriousness and privacy of love.”

—New York Times

Mass for All Saints by composer Hayes Biggs releases shadows transformed into tendrils of light by the arabesque of the vocal line. Contrapuntal procedures are used to their utmost expressive effect. [It] is a work of a melodist of talent in the manner of Puccini, or better yet, Respighi.”

—La Liberté

The Biggs song, Northeast Reservation Lines, is a real party piece... the sneakiness of the changes, the liveliness of the music and the verve of the performance worked handily... a potential recital hit in the vein of Bernstein’s I Hate Music cycle.”

—The Village Voice

All the works tried a return to tonality typical of the decade; the most successful made the return oblique and ambiguous. Hayes Biggs’ O Sacrum Convivium took off from the motet of Tallis, yet it handsomely reconfigured early modes in a modernistic scheme of free tonality.”

—New York Times

Hayes Biggs’ To Becalme His Fever... is a vivid evocation of anxiety, fits and repose. The language embraces pointillistic colors, romantic lines and prickly episodes when the demons hover. Biggs claims a forceful and subtle dramatic hand, along with a keen command of instrumental resources.”

—The Plain Dealer

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I pastori

f1994

Instrumentation

Female Voice and and 4 violoncelli

Composer's Program Notes

This work was composed at request of the Finckel Cello Quartet (Michael Finckel, Christopher Finckel, David Finckel and Adam Grabois), for that ensemble and soprano Christine Schadeberg, for a concert presented by Giovanna de Blasiis, that took place on November 15, 1994 at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York. Michael Finckel pointed me toward the wonderfully evocative and musically suggestive poem of d’Annunzio, and I am grateful to him for that as well as for acquainting me with the pleasures of writing for this darker, more richly-hued cousin of the string quartet.

The musical setting attempts to capture something of the wistful, bucolic quality of the poem, as well as its underlying passion and intensity. The instrumental writing uses virtually the entire range of the cello, and exploits a wide variety of its idiomatic and timbral possibilities (harmonics, pizzicati, chords, sul ponticello, sul tasto, and delicate, mandolin-like tremolandi). At the end, after the poem proper has ended, the voice wordlessly joins with the cellos, blending in and out of their texture for a quiet postlude.

Texts and Translations

Gabriele d’Annunzio
I Pastori

Settembre, andiamo. È tempo di migrare.
Ora in terra d’Abruzzi i miei pastori
lascian gli stazzi e vanno verso il mare:
scendono all’Adriatico selvaggio
che verde è come i pascoli dei monti.

Han bevuto profondamente ai fonti
alpestri, che sapor d’acqua natìa
rimanga ne’ cuori esuli a conforto,
che lungo illuda la lor sete in via.
Rinnovato hanno verga d’avellano.

E vanno pel tratturo antico al piano,
quasi per un erbal fiume silente,
su le vestigia degli antichi padri.
O voce di colui che primamente
conosce il tremolar della marina!

Ora lungh’esso il litoral cammina
la greggia. Senza mutamento è l’aria.
Il sole imbionda sì la viva lana
che quasi dalla sabbia non divaria.
Isciacquìo, calpestìo, dolci romori.
Ah, perchè non son io co’ miei pastori?

September—let us go. It is time to migrate.
Now in the land of the Abruzzi my shepherds
leave their stations and go towards the sea,
descending to the wild Adriatic
that is green like the mountain pastures.

They have drunk so deeply of the mountain springs
that the taste of native water
remains as a comfort in their exiled hearts
that long beguiles the thirst that they feel in leaving.
They have renewed the staff made from the nut-tree.

And they go along the old path to the plain,
almost like a silent, grassy river,
over the remains of the ancient forefathers.
O voice of him who first knows the shimmering of the seashore!

Now the flock walks along the coastline.
The air is motionless.
The sun tints the live wool so
that it is nearly indistinguishable from the sand.
Rippling of water, trampling, sweet sounds.
Ah, why am I not with my shepherds?

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