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Patrick HAWES (b. 1958)
Toward the Light (2006)
Patrick Hawes (piano)
No recording data, date, or venue. DDD

Patrick Hawes is the Composer-in-Residence for Classic FM for 2006-7. His music – rich, tonal, and melodic – has its roots is the rather melancholic agrarian music of Bax, Delius and, above all else, Ralph Vaughan Williams. The notes that accompany this disc tell us that Hawes also has an interest in Baroque and Renaissance music, and this interest allowed him to pursue a degree at Durham University. From 1990 to 1997 he was the Composer-in-Residence at Charterhouse School in the UK. His key works are The Call (1999) for soprano and orchestra, The Blue Bird Variations (2002), The Lazarus Requiem (2004), Quanta Qualia for choir (2004), and Lullaby for violin and piano (2005). With his brother, the poet Andrew Hawes, he wrote the children’s opera A King’s Ransom. From there they went on to pen The Wedding at Cana and The Far Seeing Land. Hawes has also written for television and film and seems to move from one genre to the other rather easily.

That said, what sort of music is Toward the Light and is it any good? I’m of two minds about this music and only hesitate to voice my own impressions up-front based on my lack of knowledge of the kind of classical music – or any other kind of music – that is programmed in England for Classic FM. Toward the Light would not normally appear on classical music stations in the United States. I say this regardless of its expert playing and the disc’s intimate sound quality – the kind of quality we expect from Sony/BMG who partnered with Classic FM on this disc.

In the States, this would be classified as New Age music and, I’m sad to say, rather unexcelled New Age at that. I tried listening to this music all the way through twice before I fell asleep or moved on to other things. There are sixteen short pieces on this disc and each one is quite indistinct from the others. It’s almost as if Mr. Hawes wanted to write the least engaging, least offensive, least characteristic music he could. Even Mr. Hawes’s playing is inoffensive; his fingers barely touch the keys, so light is his touch – all of which is, I’m sure, by design.

I could be doing Mr. Hawes and the listeners of Classic FM a huge disservice by being so negative about this music, even though I’m a long-time New Age music fan. I have all of the music of George Winston, Suzanne Ciani, Karl Moeller and a good dozen others from all over the world. I’ll listen to anybody who has something to say or at least has a hint of personality. Mr. Hawes probably does have quite a lot to say – the notes tell us he’s a Christian and that much of this music comes from his spiritual inclinations – but what’s here is far too gentle and unassuming to make me pay attention. I can see this music being piped into a chiropractor’s office or someone who practices shiatsu – someone who is a healer, for there is something of a healing quality to this music, a sure cure for insomnia.

Paul Cook


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