Powerful, musical, reflective and wonderful – how is this possible on one album?
I was really excited to receive this album, as always when a new CD arrives featuring music I don’t know, but do know of it’s creator, the composer David Heyes.
David Heyes is an internationally renown Double Bass performer, composer of many well known works for the instrument. But as we’ll see here, he is also a composer of other works too, form chamber pieces to songs – both types featured on this recording in fact. He leads a very busy and creative life, performing, recording, teaching, and running workshops, with both his head and heart so focussed on everything he does, he’s a true musicians musician! This new recording “ No Man’s Land brings together a selection of his work, hence it is part of Prima Facie’s: Composer Portrait. The CD includes a wide variety of his work, with a reflective selection of his work inspired by WW1. Well, please don’t think that this will produce a melancholy, or depressing listening experience, as the complete opposite is actually true. Much thought has been put into the production, and selection of the chosen works, that a wonderful balance and contrast of music is maintained throughout the disc. In fact in this way, we get to hear the true heart of a composer and his developing creativity on one record – this is important to both listener and artist. There are actually 13 tracks on this recording, so as is usual, I will not try and write about all of them, as that would take too much space, and also there are too many great musical delights to isolate. I have however chosen 6 of the highlights, and my favourite tracks to speak about, and I will leave you to do the same when you get yourselves a copy of the disc. So, let’s get started, although not in any particular order.
‘A Spotless Rose’
Although originally written for female voices and piano, for a charity concert, David has subsequently arranged it for Soprano and Piano. Here it is sung by Sarah Poole with Derek Harris on piano. How well this piece works on our imagination and auditory imaging. With simple, spacious accompaniment from Derek, it gives space for the beautiful vocal lines sung by Sarah to take us on the journey all of us love – a beautiful song indeed.
Another vocal treat provided for us, with again Sarah Poole and Derek Harris. With some lovely pianistic touches introducing us to this piece, we hold our breath as the voice enters. So expressive is the singing that we become enraptured by both words and music here – wonderful.
With a subtitle of: ‘a Meditation’ and the name of the piece we already have an idea where the composer is going with this work. Written for 2 Double Basses and Piano – played by: David Heyes (double.bass); Gemma Ashcroft (double bass); and Derek Harris (piano), this is passionate, thoughtful and a real musical memorial of the Battle of Passchendale. Inspired by photographs from WW1, this is the fifth work of David’s commemorating the conflict. The three players produce such convincing and insightful ensemble performance, we are actually there, in musical spirit.
‘Beneath the Stars’
Inspired by Frank Proto’s sonata ‘1963’ this is another memorial work to WW1. Here David Heyes (double bass) is joined again by Derek Harris, who as always on this CD, is an excellent pianist and knows the music so well, his musicality shines through as he plays with measured balance, control, at time passionate, others with delicacy. The soloist produces such a song like feel in his interpretation, that this takes the piece to an astonishing level of beauty, you’ve got to hear it. I’m certainly sure also that being the composer of such a work helps with the ensemble insight between both players, whose musical conversation is so good. In this way we are taken into their world, as the performance totally reflects the original inspiration, but in music, it is stunning.
’The Great Wall of China’
This is a terrific fun piece to hear, and is written for four double basses, using various instrumental techniques, and musical imagination, we can imagine we’re there. The combination of: pizzicato; col legno; arco; harmonics; percussion effects, gives the players a great colourful palette of sounds to explore. All four players exchange, and discuss their subject matter to terrific effect, with subtlety, power, stillness, and wonder in equal measure. Great to listen to, but no doubt also fun to play too. The performers are: David Heyes; Joe Prindl; Josie Jobbins; and Alex Heather.
Written for solo Double Bass and performed by the composer, this is a virtuosic work exploring the many various colours, tones, and using a variety of instrumental techniques of the instrument, but also the lowest range of it too. Here the composer captures through his playing and his writing, the harshness, but also wonderment of this piece.
’No Man’s Land’
Now we come to the title track of the whole CD, again a work written for Double Bass and Piano. From the sparse piano chords, we feel a sense of melancholic beauty as the Double Bass enters, songlike and questioning. Written to commemorate the centenary of WW1, and also in memory of David’s grandfathers, who both fought in the conflict, he truly wears his musical heart on his composers sleeve, so to speak, and in a wonderful way that makes this a stunning atmospheric piece.
So, all in all this is a fabulous addition to the Prima Facie catalogue, and we’re very grateful that they’ve brought together a collection of works from this creative composer. It is an absolute pleasure to listen to and certainly will stimulate your auditory senses in a fabulous way. I have already played a number of tracks from this record on my Fab Radio International show ‘ Trust Me….I’m A Composer!’ I will certainly be playing more the coming weeks/months, so tune in and here composer David Heyes music.