David Heuser

Press & Reviews


Reviewers have called David Heuser's music...


...all-American music at its most dynamic and visceral that continually engaged mind and body (Houston Chronicle),

...thoughtful, beautiful and wonderfully made...the music tells a story that has the epic reach of myth (San Antonio Express-News),

...exciting, dynamic (Eugene Register-Guard),

...just the sort of music classical music needs more of (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Seven times Heuser’s works have been singled out
for special praise on end-of-year best-of lists:
by the San Antonio Express-News in 2002, 2004, 2006, twice in 2007, and 2008,
and by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2004.

Read more below...



Catching Updrafts

Performance by newEar Contemporary Music Ensemble in Kansas City, Missouri, reviewed on "I Care If You Listen (http://www.icareifyoulisten.com/2012/11/newear-contemporary-music-ensemble-hijinks/#more-5300), November 2012:

"David Heuser’s Catching Updrafts set a fine example to follow. The composer coaxed sounds both soaring and eerily static from the clarinet, violin, piano and cello, ...[the piece's] program was grippingly realized through the work’s imaginative orchestration and the committed performance."

Performance by Palomer Ensemble in Chicago, Illinois, reviewed on Chicago Classical Review (http://chicagoclassicalreview.com/2012/06/acm-closes-season-with-edgy-scenes-from-21st-century-life/), June 2012:

"...Over the past eight years, ACM has asked composers to submit pieces that have never been performed. Every week or so, Palomar, ACM’s resident ensemble, would read through one of the works, recording the session and giving the composer a chance to hear what the music actually sounded like. For Friday’s concert ACM...returned to five of their favorites among the more than 200 submitted works...Even when dissonance erupted with sudden force, as in the crashing piano chords and sharp, tensile strokes from the strings in Heuser’s Catching Updrafts...it was part of the overall musical color, not the main focus...These were inventive pieces, full of rich color and gritty edges, gentle light and dark shadows, each one clearly designed to communicate with an audience."

Performance by Redshift in New York City, reviewed on Lucid Culture (http://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/sqwonk/), October 2010:

"... [pianist Kate Campbell] would get the choicest, most intense parts to work with throughout the evening, and made the absolute most of them, most vividly on David Heuser’s Catching Updrafts. Meant to evoke the patterns of birds gliding on the wind and then suddenly changing course, it alternated apprehensive atmospherics with bustling chase scenes along with the occasional, sudden scream and frequent detours that were downright macabre – “Halloweeny,” as one of our crew described them, a gleeful grin lighting up the corners of her face. Anderle got to play good cop to Campbell’s prowling slasher, Springer and Bellini collaborating so seamlessly that for anyone not watching, it was often impossible to tell who was playing what. All together, it was nothing short of riveting."

Performance by the SOLI Chamber Ensemble, reviewed by Mike Greenberg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (May 2007):

"David Heuser's similarly scored Catching Updrafts, first performed by SOLI in 2000, takes inspiration from the lives of hawks and eagles, their rhythm of violent action and calm soaring. There may be a shade too much of both, but at its best this music is thoughtful, beautiful and wonderfully made. As is often the case with Heuser, the music tells a story that has the epic reach of myth."

From a performance by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (July 2003), reviewed by Andrew Druckenbrod of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

" That was followed by the more substantive Catching Updrafts for violin, cello, clarinet and piano by David Heuser. This work of mood swings and unsettling glissandos unveiled poignant moments, as when violinist Ines Voglar and clarinetist Kevin Schempf shared a hauntingly gorgeous melody near the end."

Premiere performance by the Soli Chamber Ensemble reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg (September 2000):

"The centerpiece [of the concert] was David Heuser's Catching Updrafts, composed over the summer on a research stipend from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where Heuser teaches. This coloristic piece, scored for Soli's core complement of violin, clarinet, cello and piano, draws its name and its ideas from the serene gliding and dramatic descents of hawks and eagles. There was much to like in this music, especially in the violent, craggy music of the descents and the lovely, serpentine rising passages."


A Brief History of Root Vegetables

Premiere by the University of Texas at San Antonio Lyric Theatre and Orchestra reviewed by Mike Greenberg, former senior critic at the San Antonio Express-News, on incidentlight.com (March 2010):

"...(a) zany, anarchic, sometimes puerile (but what the heck?) confection...A Brief History of Root Vegetables seems well positioned to become a funnier, bawdier, hipper alternative to Gilbert and Sullivan as a large-cast showcase for the voice divisions of music schools around the country. It might be a little too funny, bawdy and hip for most mainstream opera companies, but that’s their loss."


Immaculate, Bored, Off-Key, and Vain

Performance on the Utah Symphony's Ardean Watts Contemporary Chamber Series with Timothy Jones, baritone, reviewed by Catherine Reese Newton, writing in the Salt Lake Tribune (April 2009):

"...composer David Heuser's delightfully droll setting of four Jack Prelutsky poems...one of the highlights of the latest offering in the Utah Symphony's Ardean Watts Contemporary Chamber Series...goofy fun..."

Performance by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (June 2004), Timothy Jones, baritone, and Brett Mitchell, conductor. From a review by Andrew Druckenbrod in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (This concert was one of the Post-Gazette’s Top 10 Best Classical Concerts for 2004; this work was one of only two works specifically mentioned in that year-end write-up.):

"Saturday night he [Timothy Jones] wasted not a single drop of wit in premiering David Heuser's hilarious Immaculate, Bored, Off-key and Vain, written for Jones.

"This work is just the sort of music classical music needs more of. Yes, music must take us to spiritual heights, but occasionally it can make us laugh, too. I am always amazed by how many living composers forget that music can be entertainment (even revered figures such as Mozart and Haydn thought so).

"Heuser certainly doesn't need to be reminded. The texts to the four songs in this set by Jack Prelutsky are hilarious in a Shel Silverstein sort of way. You can tell that even by the titles, such as "Today Is Very Boring" and "I'm the Single Most Wonderful Person I Know." But it was Jones' comedic expressions and timing that adroitly brought out the humor. His voice, rich and burnished, provided technique when asked. The ensemble, led here by conductor Brett Mitchell, matched his energy.


From a review of the same performance by Mark Kanny in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

"The highpoint was composer David Heuser's Immaculate, Bored, Off-key and Vain, a cycle of four songs delivered with charismatic brilliance by baritone Timothy Jones. His resonant vocalism was wedded with a vivid dramatic sensibility to convey a woman's compulsion to wash everything (including sponging a pie), utter boredom and conceited musicianship before concluding with "I'm the Single Most Wonderful Person I Know." Jones even played violin for a moment. The spirited performance was led with superb assurance by Brett Mitchell."


From a review of a performance by the Olmos Ensemble with Timothy Jones, baritone, San Antonio, Texas, reviewed by Mike Greenburg in the San Antonio Express-News, May 2005:

"[Timothy] Jones, backed by a mixed instrumental quintet, had a more accommodating vehicle for his expressive and vocal powers in Heuser's Immaculate, Bored, Off-Key and Vain, settings of four children's verses by Jack Prelutsky. The texts, all richly amusing in ways that appeal equally to children and adults, depict the title's personality traits. Heuser's refreshing music supports them well. "



In Sad Hotels and Woman Ironing

Performance by the Chicago New Arts Trio (Carolyn Hart, soprano; Misook Kim, piano; Jennie Brown, flute) reviewed by Mike Greenberg, writing in the San Antonio Current (April 2009):

"Heuser was represented by highly sympathetic settings of two poems by Olga Cabral...Woman Ironing and In Sad Hotels are concerned with memory and age. The music for the former has a homespun American character and exploits (perhaps too directly) the repeating figures in the text; the latter, deeper and more allusive, evokes Depression-era jazz and blues. These join two previously heard settings of other Cabral poems, O the White Towns and Lilian’s Chair, to form a collection of uncommon grace."


The Golden Ax

Performance at the Cactus Pear Music Festival with Timothy Jones, baritone, Susan Lorette Dunn, soprano, reviewed by Mike Greenberg, writing on incidentlight.com (July 2008):

"Heuser created a deft, sparkling neoclassical score for wind quintet, and the vocal lines fit the singers nicely and carried the story well. The music was direct enough for young attention spans, but not namby-pamby. It was nice to hear music for kids that doesn't treat kids like idiots."

From another performance at the Cactus Pear Music Festival with Timothy Jones, baritone, Susan Lorette Dunn, soprano, reviewed by in the San Antonio Express-News by Jennifer Roolf Laster (July 2008). (The Express-News named the premiere of The Golden Ax to their “Best of the Year in Classical Music” for 2008):

"Heuser and librettist Gary Albright kept the one-act true to its roots with an elegant, eminently-hummable score and easy-to-follow dialogue."

From the year-end best-of article (December 2008): "San Antonio composer David Heuser continues to produce innovative and imaginative works that challenge performers and audiences alike. This "mini-opera"...was an excellent showcase for soprano Susan Lorette Dunn and baritone Timothy Jones, in addition to being witty and fun."


Thin Green Traces

Performance by the SOLI Chamber Ensemble's Ertan Torgul, violin, and Carolyn True, piano, reviewed by Mike Greenberg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (December 2007) (This concert was one of the Express-News’ "Best of the Year in Classical Music" for 2007; this piece was singled out in that year-end write-up of the concert.):

"David Heuser’s Thin Green Traces for violin and piano, in its world premiere, may be the strongest work yet from the composer based at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It is tautly disciplined and lean, each of its five movements expanding in an inevitable way from a germinal idea. But Thin Green Traces is no cool abstraction. Its formal qualities help focus darkly expressive music that seems to grow from personal necessity."


Something Miraculous Burns

Performance by the San Antonio Symphony, reviewed by Mike Greenberg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (November 2007) (This concert was one of the Express-News’ "Best of the Year in Classical Music" for 2007):

"You don’t have to read the composer’s program note to know the intentions behind David Heuser’s luminously gloomy Something Miraculous Burns, given its world premiere Friday night by the San Antonio Symphony under music director Larry Rachleff...This is intense, deeply felt music, admirably clear in structure, masterful in harmony and orchestral color....Something Miraculous Burns is music of undeniable power. It demands, holds and rewards attention, and it exemplifies the use of music to turn our thoughts to the world beyond music."


Deep Blue Spiral

Performance by Todd Oxford, alto saxophone, reviewed by Mike Greenberg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (November 2006) (This concert was one of the Express-News’ "Best of the Year in Classical Music" for 2006; this piece was the only piece specifically mentioned in that year-end write-up of the concert.):

"David Heuser's Deep Blue Spiral for alto sax and electronic tape is a jazzy, nervous, high-energy piece in which the solo line is beautifully integrated with the electronics. It would make a great ballet score."

From the year-end review: "An excellent showcase for varied locally based composers culminated in David Heuser's jazzy, nervous, high-energy Deep Blue Spiral for alto sax and electronic sounds, with Todd Oxford the superb, inspired soloist."

Performance by Valerie Vidal (April 2004) at a concert of works performed by Aura with choreography by the Sandra Organ Dance Company at the University of Houston. Reviewed in the Houston Chronicle by Molly Glentzer:

"Gibbs also showed promise as a choreographer, presenting Elements, a trio for Willison, de Sa Martins and David Armendariz. She had one of the best scores to work with: David Heuser’s 1998 Deep Blue Spiral. Another “electroacoustic” work for soloist and tape, the music was dynamically performed by alto saxophonist Valerie Vidal. (A doctoral student and Aura’s assistant director, Vidal was the night’s true star.) Elements was a decently crafted mix of unison work and solos, with cool angular arm work and acrobatic partnering. But it never quite reached the same pitch as the music."

Performance by Morgan King (October 1999) reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg:

"With its jazzy solo line seamlessly integrated with the crashing, nervous, streetwise, cop-show adrenaline rush of the tape part, Deep Blue Spiral wanted to be heard in a hip urban warehouse, not in the UTSA Recital Hall."


Small Blue Marble

Performance by Mary Ellen Goree & Amy Venticinque (violins), Allyson Dawkins (viola), and Marilyn de Oliveira, (cello), reviewed by Mike Greenburg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (May 2006):

"Restless, craggy music in the Bartok line alternates with gently lyrical sections to portray this humane work's imaginary circling of the globe."


November Sonata

Performance by S. Beth May, reviewed by Mike Greenburg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (Online) (November 2005):

"Heuser writes that Beethoven 'haunts the piece in more than a few places.' Indeed he does, in certain chords that shine through the modernist tonal harmony, but the brooding atmosphere also recalls the Liszt Sonata in B Minor. Though this music is not particularly spare, it is concise in the sense that every gesture seems guided by a consistent purpose."


A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

Performance by the Texas Music Festival Orchestra, Carl St. Clair conductor, reviewed by Charles Ward in the Houston Chronicle (July 2005):

“David Heuser's A Screaming Comes Across the Sky was a shot-in-the-arm beginning. Commissioned by the festival, Heuser's music certainly matched the title through its intense, driving rhythms and thunderclap-loud outbursts. This was all-American music at its most dynamic and visceral. Yet the piece by the University of Texas-San Antonio composer was well-crafted and smartly orchestrated … The music continually engaged mind and body as it careened along.”


O The White Towns

Performance by Michael Burgess and Geoffrey Waite on November 2004 reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg. (This concert was one of the Express-News’ “Best of the Year in Classical Music” for 2004; this piece was the only piece specifically mentioned in that year-end write-up.):

"Making the strongest impact was the premiere of David Heuser's O the White Towns, a closely observed setting of a poem by Olga Cabral, for tenor and piano. Heuser had previously set another Cabral poem, Lillian's Chair, with an apt intimacy. O the White Towns presented a different challenge - a cinematic reflection of the era of school desegregation... His setting is fully engaged with the sweep of history and the personal stakes in the poem."


The Darkness in My Pockets

Mike Greenburg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News about a performance of the first song of this set, Lillian's Chair, by Linda Poetschke (April 2003):

"[a] lovely portrait of a departed woman"


Baby Toys

From a review of the premiere performance by Diane Windeler in the San Antonio Express-News (November 2003):

"Baby Toys is a delightful, impish percussion score for rattles, squeaky things, electronic gizmos and nursery-version musical instruments, written for this concert by David Heuser of the University of Texas at San Antonio. There was actually coherent structure and form to it, performed by conductor Heuser and four musicians sitting cross-legged on a carpet strewn with kids' room clutter."


Cúchulainn's Warp-Spasm

Mike Greenburg, writing in the San Antonio Express-News (10/8/2002). :

"From David Heuser of UTSA came the harrowing Cuchalainn's Warp-Spasm, a 2001 piece for live spoken voice, electronic tape and digital effects processors. The spoken text, from a bloody Irish epic, is digitally processed with echo effects and distortion during performance. The speaker, Moumin Quazi, must have been unflappable to get through it.

"Technical details aside, the piece is just plain compelling. It fully and effectively conveys the dark, violent, monstrous atmosphere of the text, and it's like nothing you've heard before."

The concert for which Mr. Greenburg wrote this review was named one of the top 10 classical musical events in San Antonio for 2002 by the San Antonio Express News, and this piece was singled out with a special mention (December 2002):

"...and David Heuser, whose harrowing Cuchalainn's Warp-Spasm for speaker, tape and digital effects indicated a wholly singular musical mind."


Twelve Miniatures for Piano

Performance by James Lowe (February 2001) of ten of the Miniatures (Thorn and Bells were not performed) reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg:

"In the course of a revelatory solo recital on Thursday, pianist James Lowe gave the premiere of David Heuser's Miniatures for Piano, 10 short pieces composed between 1985 and 1999. Heuser's idiom is in the modernist mainstream of stretched tonality and clear expressive purpose.His miniatures reflect back on several important currents of the past century. One is a percussive, rhythmically vibrant homage to Alberto Ginastera; another is a nervous rag. Others are variously jaunty, tender or pensive. All are exceptionally well-crafted, and all contain a lot more music than the term "miniature" might suggest."


3,127 Notes for Solo Viola

Performance by Allyson Dawkins (February 1999) reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg:

"I was impressed with its finely crafted mix of aggressiveness, rhythmic drive and yearning melody."


Skallagrimsson

Performance by Janalen Fischer (October 1999) reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg:

"...its urban boogie-woogie bang-bang alternated with some quiet chord-based passages and, at the end, a section as cool and glistening as an ice floe."


The Sun, the Plough and the Hazel Tree

Performance from October 1999 reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg:

"...a work with a strong narrative structure and some lovely, poignant moments."


Cauldron

Performance by the Eugene Symphony, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor, reviewed in the Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) by Michael Souther (May 1997):

"After intermission, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra presented the West Coast premiere of a work commissioned by Harth-Bedoya for the New York Youth Symphony. Composed by David Heuser in 1995, "Cauldron" is an exciting, dynamic tour-de-force, with a relentless ostinato, here taken up by the piano, then the harp, then migrating around the ensemble, never completely disappearing.

"The performance was excellent, the large orchestra was at its best, and the energy never waned. All sections of the orchestra got to shine in turn, and the playing left one full of admiration both for the musicians and for the young composer of this fine work."

The same performance reviewed by Fred Crafts on GaurdLine:

"Although the orchestra seemed uninspired with Mozart's overture to "The Abduction from the Seraglio," it certainly connected with Heuser's propulsive "Cauldron." This raucous contemporary piece, being given its West Coast premiere, was built on a driving rhythm pattern that erupted into cha-cha-chas, with brass and percussion that stirred the blood."


Octet

Performance in October of 1999 reviewed in the San Antonio Express News by Mike Greenburg. Not all of this is glowing, but it's great fun to read:

"An octet for winds showed great promise in the complex, shifting rhythmic currents of the first movement, a sort of cockeyed march, and the third, a fugue in bold colors. Of the finale, a limp and directionless chorale, I can only speculate that an evil music librarian must have appended a composition student's harmony exercise to the end of Heuser's score. What on earth was the man thinking about?"


Review of Works on CDs

Not here, but there

From a review of the CD Not here, but there on the WRSU Classical and New Music "Endless Possibilities" website (April 3, 2009):

"...[creates] a very moving experience as it takes the listeners from peaks to valleys."

Deep Blue Spiral

From a review of the CD Juggernaut in Saxophone Journal (July/August 2003) by Paul Wagner:

"This is a terrific piece that belongs on the jazz world as well. Prepare yourself for a wild ride into your imagination. The rhythms are driving and exciting while the whole piece is absolutely fascinating."

From a review of the same CD in American Music Center's New Music Box (Issue 43, Vol. 4, No. 7):

"...David Heuser's adrenaline-rush Deep Blue Spiral round[s] out this exhilarating recording."


Still Life with Fruit

From a review of the CD Twilight Remembered in Fanfare (May/June 2004) by Paul Ingram:

"David Heuser's up-tempo Still Life with Fruit is more effective, with memorable, incantatory thematic fragments passing from flute to mallet instruments and back again, mediated by mysterious drums and cymbals. Finally the flute gets rhythmic too, as well as melodic, both aspects beautifully sustained by Kim McCormick."

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