"William Hawley’s O Magnum Mysterium opens in evocative fashion with the women’s voices coming as if from a distance. Hawley’s imaginative setting has roots in the Renaissance yet mixes the polyphony within a luminous modern idiom. French led a blended and controlled reading."
"I am thrilled that Choral Arts has produced the first CD devoted entirely to William Hawley's choral music. His music is lush, harmonious, flowing, and tenderly expressive. Hawley has a poet's appreciation of text and an architect's understanding of structure."
"William Hawley's gorgeously fluid Two Motets focus the attention sharply, their liberal use of suspended harmonies an acid test for the accuracy of a choir's tuning, and one the Trinity singers pass impeccably."
"If this is a representative cross-section of unnaccompanied American choral music since the Second World War, it shows a genre in which beauty of sound and an atmosphere of prayerfulness are the chief characteristics...few do it with such gorgeous results as New Yorker William Hawley."
"It’s fascinating to hear how Hawley subtly rearranges the musical building blocks (melody, harmony, dynamics) of the first motet in the second to reflect the different emotions expressed in the darker second text."
"The contrasts in thematic material from the first
motet are magnified by their very similarity, as Hawley
shifts to a darker mode in reflection of the text. Both
motets end with prolonged and unresolved suspensions
to sharply differing effect: unending beauty in the first
instance, and ceaseless torment in the second."
"There are certainly pieces that have that highly tonal lyricism, above all William Hawley’s Two Motets, with their hints of fauxbourdon and Elizabethan harmony."
“‘William Hawley is a really terrific composer,’ Bode enthused in an interview at St. Mark's Cathedral earlier this week.”
—Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times (concert preview of the World Premiere of O Remember, in a program entitled "Stillness, Divide My Dream, The Choral Music of William Hawley", by Choral Arts, Robert Bode, Artistic Director)
“Hawley has crafted this into a richly textured work that spiraled into a lush, choral-orchestral sound.”
“The prevalent sound is smooth and svelte as opposed to disjunct or dissonant. In addition, there's an interesting alternation in temporal perspective when the music fuses antique inspiration and contemporary aesthetics, as in...Hawley's Io son la primavera,...”
“William Hawley's Four Reveries boast a harmonic and textural opulence...”
“‘Fuggi, fuggi dolor,’ written for Chanticleer in 2000 by composer William Hawley, blurs Renaissance textures with eerily shifting chromatic lines to produce an effect suggestive of a painting slowly washing away."
— Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
“William Hawley's settings of poems of renaissance Italian Torquato Tasso are a masterly and gorgeous reminiscence of Gesualdo.”
“William Hawley's Reveries also are superb...”
second half of the performance kicked off with lush sonorities in
William Hawley's calmly beautiful and atmospheric Two
“From the opening ‘Beautiful River', by Rev. Robert Lowry, to William Hawley's touching setting of the Shaker hymn ‘Not One Sparrow is Forgotten'...this is as satisfying and uplifting a choral program as you're likely to hear in this repertoire.”
“William Hawley contributes two arrangements in his patented 'sweet haze of harmony' – tone clusters turned to flowers rather than to thorns."
“From those harmonies of old the American composer William Hawley arrives at straightforwardly Romantic idioms in his Schiller setting, Der Abend.”
“Der Abend und Abschied by William Hawley are cyclically conceived, but are performable separately as well. In Der Abend the composer wishes to convey in music Schiller's conciousness of Nature, while Abschied reflects the silence of the muse, something which all creative artists can experience. For Hawley this piece is ‘at the same time a dirge for the poet himself.' A composition full of melancholy, lyrical, downright Romantic.”
“The New York composer William Hawley (b.1950) has selected two singular poems for a work especially composed for the ensemble Singer Pur: the myth-homageing ode Der Abend (1795), an Ovidian depiction of sunset, as well as Abschied vom Leser (1795), a kind of invocation of the muse ‘in reverse'. Hawley's rendering seeks to impart the deep nature-consciousness of Der Abend and the evocation of death represented by the ‘silent muse' as a liberating, cathartic moment for the artist.”
“In this composition [What a Piece of Work is Man] Hawley sets text from Shakespeare's Hamlet in a spectacular, majestic manner...”
— Sounding Board, February, 2005
“The choral sound was completely pure and focused in three selections by William Hawley, a contemporary composer who has written much music for Chanticleer. Mosella was a particularly beautiful piece of writing, opening in pure fifths, almost medieval sounding, then opening out into seventh chords. The Cayuga Vocal Ensemble found a way to emulate the pure, vibrato-less sound of Chanticleer's countertenors. In Io son la Primavera, they found a way to divide Hawley's 10-part writing between 16 singers, passing the music between various subsets of the ensemble, giving the music a layered sound.”
— Mark G. Simon, The Ithaca Times, November 10, 2004
“The works of William Hawley have attracted the attention of top choirs everywhere. Among the shorter pieces here, we get two lovely miniatures from him: a truly heavenly ‘In Paradisum' in Latin and ‘Celia', a delightful piece with piano setting a 17th Century English love poem.”
“William Hawley offers a more flowing, tonally conservative approach to his Six Madrigals that conclude the program. He casts the 16th-Century Italian texts from Torquato Tasso in the imitative style of the Renaissance masters, while reminding us of his contemporary pedigree with recurring harmonic surprises. Lines of limpid polyphony alternate with more emphatic homophonic passages.”
wrote these madrigals to
poems of the 16th-century Italian poet Tasso,
and they're very conservative in their construction. But
he also has a harmonic language of his own that's easy to recognize
in all his pieces.
Chanticleer recorded two of these; this is the first recording
of the complete set. You wouldn't know these madrigals weren't
written by Monteverdi
or any other Italian master, they're set so well. They're
the most accessible pieces to an audience on the disc, but to my
mind that's neither here
nor there. What I care about more is that they're very singable;
Bill is primarily a vocal composer, so he understands a singer's
well. And his exquisite detail in setting the texts makes
the madrigals fun to sing and beautiful for the audience as well.
If Monteverdi heard
this music, he wouldn't understand the harmonies, but I'm
sure he'd approve of the way the text was set.”
“On more conservative ground, musically speaking, there are two exquisite settings by William Hawley of short lyric poems by Tasso,...”
“The 12 singing men of Chanticleer smartly introduced themselves on Friday evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they are scheduled to return frequently. They will be welcome. ...Of the newer works, William Hawley's Tasso settings dallied in sophisticated fashion with older music, Gesualdo and Monteverdi coming to Broadway in Mr. Hawley's music...”
“William Hawley's settings of poems of Renaissance Italian Torquato Tasso are a masterly and gorgeous reminiscence of Gesualdo.”
“Scored for chorus, orchestra and four vocalists, William Hawley's Seattle is a setting of the famous treaty oration of 1854 attributed to Chief Seattle. Hawley's music is moving, in a conservative manner, and juxtaposes massed voices, orchestra and soloists with considerable dexterity. What is perhaps Hawley's finest accomplishment is that he gives renewed and meaningful life to the stirring words of the speech, making us aware, once again, of their relevance to today.”
“...an accomplished recent set titled Four Reveries by New York composer William Hawley...”
— Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, November 5, 2001
“...the excerpts from William Hawley's Shelley Songs came as a shock—three honest-to-goodness, lyrical, Romantic, arpeggio-filled, straight-forward settings of Percy Shelley poems. ”
—Richard S. Ginell, The Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2001
“The Six Madrigals of living composer William Hawley demonstrated a gift for marrying the Renaissance poetry of Torquato Tasso with ten elaborately mixed vocal parts rather than the standard four. The voices unfurled like fluttering banners from soprano down to bass.”
— The Washington Post, November 5, 1998
“With its lush harmonies, evanescent sonorities and mild dissonances, Songs of Kabir hints at old-fashioned romanticism and new-fashioned modernism. The work slowly evolves and is simply structured. Its many textures are one of its chief virtues. At times hushed and at times grand, the piece works well in the theater. The lines of a solo soprano (Lauren Wagner) and baritone (Kevin C. Helppie) are woven with considerable skill into the choral fabric as a whole. The performance was equally striking, with both the 50-piece orchestra and nearly 90-member chorus performing with appreciable poise. Wagner used her large-scale soprano with aplomb. She clearly had thought about Kabir's poetry and invested the music with the passion of the text. The group will record Songs of Kabir later this summer. It is not hard to discern why. It should be a popular success.”
— The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 6, 1995
“Hawley's Sonnet 116 for the chorus' small ensemble, Philandros, performed at the rear of the church, is a highly potent work, in which emphatic declamation is coupled with smooth harmonies.”
— The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 5, 1995
“Unexpectedly Beautiful were Two Motets, written in 1984 by American William Hawley, setting to music poems in Latin by Ausonius and Petronius Arbiter.”
— The Essex County Standard, UK, April 14, 1995
“The big retro entry was William Hawley's piano-vocal setting of Keats's ‘Rapture of Endymion', a richly romantic lyrical effusion that Vaughan Williams might have composed, had he been French. It should have been the finale, and Joseph Kubera played it like a homecoming.”
— Concert review, American Record Guide, September/October, 1994
“William Hawley is a well-respected composer, whose reputation is built on just the kind of expressive writing found in the two a cappella Latin motets presented.”
— The Princeton Star Ledger, October 31, 1994
“William Hawley's 'Rapture of Endymion', a setting from Keats,...with its almost Schumannesque Romantic harmonies, seemed peculiarly out of place on this program, but it demonstrated Mr. Buckner's exceptional range. ”
“William Hawley wrote his Seven Madrigals, poems by Torquato Tasso, for Chanticleer in 1986. Two of these, ‘Vita de Ia mia vita' and ‘lo son la Primavera' are represented here. While ‘Vita' is written in a style somewhat reminiscent of Renaissance polyphony (but with a modem harmonic palette), ‘Primavera' has a lush harmonic setting, suggestive of the style one associates with The King's Singers...”
“The 16-part motets by Hawley, where the singers were spread across the stage, on the other hand, touched the heart.”
Courant (The Hague, Netherlands) in the
motetten beroeren het hart»,
by Adriaan Hager, January 25, 1993, reviewing a concert by the Nederlands Kamerkoor, conducted by Kent Hatteberg.
“William Hawley's two antiphonal Motets were a little heavy with late Romantic harmony, but his manipulation of four vocal quartets placed around the hall — each with wide spacing between individual singers — was the work of a clever hedonist.”
“...William Hawley's suave Motets on Classic secular Latin texts,...”
“The Seven Madrigals of William Hawley were sung with a sensitivity that conveyed the deepest meaning of Tasso's poetry. ‘Hours, cease your flight in the, lucid East' they sang, and it was as though someone had spread flowers in the path of the tones as they made their way to the ear. Hawley wrote the love songs especially for Chanticleer, and it suits them perfectly. He is a composer who speaks with a cultured voice that is keenly aware of the Renaissance classics.”
Pontzious, The San Francisco Examiner, May 20, 1986
“[Gregg] Smith has long been associated with new music, but his program Thursday evening at the County Museum of Art seemed conservative. Nonetheless, the 16-voice ensemble introduced William Hawley's recent Two Motets to Los Angeles listeners. The New York composer's work, an a cappella setting of two secular Latin texts, proceeds from Medieval textures and sonorities and moves exquisitely to mildly dissonant 20th-Century harmonies. Smith divided the group into quartets placed on four sides of the audience; Hawley's music fully exploits the antiphonal arrangement.”
“William Hawley's ‘O Blandos Oculos' was quiet and contemplative...”
Holland, The New York Times, June 11, 1981
“On one level or another, almost all art is about itself, but the young composer William Hawley has taken this 20th-century truism to an interesting extreme. The five pieces he presented at the Kitchen on Wednesday evening stripped music of melody and rhythm and reduced it to the barest bones of sound, often to simply one repeated note or chord. Scientifically speaking, sound is a wave, of course, and one of Mr. Hawley's works was entitled ‘Wave (for Kiyoko)' — Kiyoko being Mrs. Hawley, who played piano on several of the pieces. Mr. Hawley's compositions measure with a physicist's precision the wave a sound makes as it reverberates and dies. ‘Wave' itself was a tape of an unidentified sound that repeatedly uncurled, expanded and gently subsided.
Other pieces, performed live, invited one to listen closely to the receding throb of a vibraphone or the dwindling echo of a piano, and sometimes Mr. Hawley followed one chord with another (usually consisting of the same notes) struck by a second instrument so that the waves overlapped and created eddies of overtones. After a while, one felt almost able to see sound generate, and in ‘Music for Cello and Piano' one literally did as Julie Green slowly and painstakingly drew the length of her bow across one string of her cello.This description makes Mr. Hawley's music seem grimly minimalist, coldbloodedly scientific, but, in fact, it is quite warm and appealing. For, in addition to calibrating sound, these pieces contemplate it with a serenity that seems almost Buddhist. Like a Zen monk meditating on the sound of one hand clapping, Mr. Hawley's music meditates on the sound of one chord decaying. Its quiet, slow-moving delicacy — to switch to a Christian context, its ‘still, small voice of calm' — leaves the receptive listener not only enlightened, but agreeably soothed.”
— Ken Emerson, “Bare Bones of Sounds”, The New York Times, February 25, 1979