“ 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
In 1992 I completed a brief work, E.M. am Flügel, for a very good friend of mine, the extraordinary composer and pianist Eric Moe. Eric gave the piece its first performance in 1992, and rec0rded it in 1995. I’m so grateful that this beautiful recording is now available commercially on my recently released album When you are reminded by the instruments (Navona Records, NV6191).
The title came about in part because I always was amused by the use of the phrase “am Flügel” on Deutsche Grammophon album covers (“Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Bariton; Jörg Demus am Flügel”). “Flügel” is the German word for “wing,” and “am Flügel” is used to mean “at the piano” or “on the piano,” referring to the alar appearance of a concert grand.
Roughly six minutes in length, E.M. am Flügel employs a number of pianistic idioms, with textures that range from rather sparsely post-Webernian to grandly Romantic, and includes a number of seemingly disparate elements, including quotations from a Gregorian Credo and Eric’s own choral setting of O vos omnes, as well as a melodic phrase that occurs several times — including at the work’s climax — and later found its way into my Mass for All Saints (1994). (In this excerpt from the Sanctus of my mass, that phrase can be heard beginning at about 0:33, as the chorus sings “Pleni sunt cœli et terra gloria tua.”)
Despite the references to sacred music, there’s nothing overtly religious or programmatic about this piece. It does, however, exemplify something that I strive to have available to me in whatever music I’m writing, which is the broadest possible harmonic and expressive palette, exploring various points along the continuum between tonality and non-tonality.
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