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.”


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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„du aber bist der Baum” (“but you are tree”) (Piano Prelude No. 3, after Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Annunciation: The Words of the Angel”)


Composer's Program Notes

Many thanks are due to Thomas Stumpf, who commissioned and premiered this prelude, along with
the first two. The first, “The secret that silent Lazarus
would not reveal,” takes its cue from Billy Collins’s poem “The Afterlife,” while the
second, “The presence of still water,” is a meditation on Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of
Wild Things.” The third, in memory of my mother-in-law, Lois J. Orzel, takes its title
from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “Annunciation: The Words of the Angel,” from Das
Marien-Leben (The Life of the Virgin Mary, 1912). (A fourth piano prelude, Quicksilver, was completed in 2022.)

When asked her thoughts about a fitting poem to use as the basis of a memorial work for
her mother, my wife Susan suggested something about the Virgin Mary might be
appropriate. Lois was a faithful Roman Catholic, and thus Mary was an integral part of
her devotional life. I immediately thought of Rilke’s poems on this subject, which speak
not only to the grace and compassion of the Virgin Mother, but also to her strength. The
two annunciation poems in particular show the awe in which she is held by the mighty
angel Gabriel. In Annemarie S. Kidder’s translation, Gabriel presents variations on a
refrain: “I am the day, I am the dew, but you are tree”; “I am just breath in woods, but
you are tree.” In the prelude I attempt to suggest Gabriel’s overpowering presence as he
enters Mary’s dwelling, only to be met — and astonished — by her quiet and serene

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