…it is a through-composed play wherein the words are sung and the music is sweet and strong and sometimes stunning, as in back to the wall-knees weak stunning. He composes with a lyric quality but without the need for a hit song to emerge. His orchestrations are full and reek of Poulenc and Weill and Stravinsky and Schoenberg and with the melodic quality over the strident and angular accompaniment Sawyer produces musical imagery that is simply spectacular. As the plot twists bring up memories of other works, the music stirs up the concepts of Dialogues of the Carmelites, Aufstieg and Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, The Rake’s Progress and Pelleas and Melisande.
Berkshire Bright Focus
“…the integrity, craftsmanship, and expressive force of these quartets–and indeed everything on this superbly-played-and-recorded program–maintain a consistently exalted level. Quartet 3, in particular, is a splendid achievement.
Anyone devoted to well-made 20th Century chamber music will admire and enjoy all four pieces, as I do. Sawyer is a composer of considerable skill and stature, and I hope to see more of his music issued soon.
“The members of the Laurel Trio … brought a very attractive new piece to their concert on Friday. Eric Sawyer’s Three for Trio is the work of a person who is entirely at ease with traditional tonality stretched to its limits, who weaves powerful statements into his textures and who believes that lyricism still has a place in contemporary music. Its three movements are concise without being spare and, seemingly, entirely unself-conscious, and it received a committed performance.”
“world premiere of Eric Sawyer’s Contours,” a three-movement work for clarinet and piano… Sawyer has written a delightful piece that’s accessible, sophisticated and, above all, witty.
The jagged first movement (it’s titled Crags – each movement depicts a kind of landscape) has the instruments imitating each other, sometimes wildly, as if in a competitive improvisation. The slow Slopes movement brings to mind images of a lazy summer afternoon, the two musical lines gently intertwining, with the clarinet going off on occasional flights of fancy. And in the finale, Bumps, the instruments do mock battle in a joyful cat-and-mouse game. Who wins? The listener.”
…premiere of a new work crafted around Shaker themes by Eric Sawyer, called The Humble Heart …a cantata based on traditional texts from the American Shakers, centering on community rites of humility and mystical experience. [Sawyer] scores parts of the work for children, both singing and playing instruments, to highlight the role of children in Shaker communities as well as to echo the attitude of simplicity and playfulness present in many of his chosen texts.
Clifton J. Noble Jr.
Boston , Massachusetts
“… Eric Sawyer’s violin-and-cello Pas de Deux, a thing of high interactiveness, steady narrative impetus, and beautiful timbres.”
The Boston Globe
“This quartet [String Quartet #3] has echoes of early 20th century lyricism while still being completely contemporary. It is a terrific piece.
…these Bagatelles [ Five Bagatelles for cello and piano] are brief and witty, and would make a wonderful addition to any cellist’s repertoire.”
“Eric Sawyer’s new triple concerto Concord Conversations was launched Friday evening at a world premiere event performed by the Triple Helix trio and the Concord Orchestra. Leading a program titled The Transcendentalists, the Sawyer work beautifully evoked the animated, antagonistic debates so characteristic of the high-minded leaders of the 19th-century movement.”
“…The result is a highly effective modern musical interpretation of verbal ideas and challenges, stated first by the trio then developed and echoed by the orchestra. “
Boston Musical Intelligencer
The audience was on its feet almost before the curtain could be raised for the curtain calls, raining down “bravoes” on Sunday afternoon’s sold-out performance of the new opera, The Garden of Martyrs…
Sawyer’s writing for the chorus was particularly successful. Their expression of malevolent glee at the prospect of the hanging, “The Swinging of the Bones” was chilling, and their final utterance, “The Lord God Made A Garden,” brought tears to more than one pair of patron’s eye.
Clifton J. Noble Jr.
…this is one of the freshest, most ambitious new American operas I’ve heard in ages. Instead of taking up once again some cinematic or literary retread, it actually dares to use original material. And it also dares to take up historical events and musical tropes without succumbing to mere costume drama. The above criticism aside, I appreciate, admire, and enjoy Sawyer’s voice. And I hope this is only the first of Shoptaw’s librettos. As a first collaboration, the result is stunning.
…[Our American Cousin] has several passages where words and music come together exquisitely. One is the series of choruses in Act I, when the Ford’s Theatre audience turns and reforms into groups representing the war’s human aftermath – amputees, freedmen, nurses, carpetbaggers, etc., singing words culled from real diaries and letters. Here is Sawyer’s most beautiful music, drenched in a bittersweet chromaticism reminiscent of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. These, and a final chorus condemning the cycle of “blood for blood,” might well be packaged separately. They speak clearly to our day.
David Perkins, Boston Globe
…The work is overall an impressive achievement. The opening act is filled with a sense of dark intrigue and anticipation. The portion drawn from the original play, primarily in Act II, is light and entertaining. The final portion is more somber and contemplative… this work deserves many future productions because of its superior artistic, albeit highly intellectual qualities.
Marvin J. Ward, Classical Voice of New England
NORTHAMPTON – In opera, anything can happen as long as you sing about it. In Eric Sawyer and John Shoptaw’s new opera Our American Cousin, the events immediately surrounding President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination were examined operatically through the eyes of the actors in the play the president came to Ford’s Theater to attend that fateful evening…more
Clifton J. Noble Jr.
“The highlight of the evening,…. Eric Sawyer’s Quartet No. 2, was immediately appealing and left me looking forward to further performances of this composer’s work. The second movement in particular was memorable, combining beautiful melodic material presented in the kind of deeply personal and heartfelt counterpoint reminiscent of a late Beethoven quartet.
…The other movements, lighter in character, were also attractive on first hearing. Sawyer clearly knows how to write for string quartet, filling his music with lots of interesting interplay, unpredictable rhythmic flashes, and virtuosic challenges. It all added up to a premiere that was thought provoking, moving, and altogether entertaining. “
San Francisco Classical Voice
Composers in Red Sneakers concert
Eric Sawyer knows how to write for chorus, and his Three Choruses from Ecclesiastes, shiningly sung by The Seraphim Singers, was notable for fine prosody and meaningful, pleasant harmonies: it recalled Samuel Barber’s Reincarnations cycle.
Stephen Marc Beaudoin