TERRY RILEY : Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector; One Earth, One People, One Love; Cry of a Lady; G Song; Lacrymosa; Remembering Kevin; Cadenza on the Night Plain – Kronos Quartet – Nonesuch

by | Jun 26, 2015 | Classical CD Reviews

TERRY RILEY : Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector; One Earth, One People, One Love (from Sun Rings); Cry of a Lady; G Song; Lacrymosa; Remembering Kevin; Cadenza on the Night Plain – Kronos Quartet – Nonesuch 2.549523, 76:23, (6/23/15) ****:

I recently saw a photo of a note that Philip Glass had sent to Terry Riley in which Glass thanks Riley for opening the doors to do the things that he and many other “minimalist” composers have since ventured into. Hearing the breakthrough – and still somewhat patience testing – In C, from 1964, few would argue that Riley was the true pioneer.

From the Nonesuch press release for this new release, “in honor of groundbreaking American composer Terry Riley’s 80th birthday, Nonesuch Records has released One Earth, One People, One Love: Kronos Plays Terry Riley—a five-disc box set of four albums of his work composed for, and performed by, his longtime friends and champions Kronos Quartet—as well as the individual record Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector: Music of Terry Riley.” This exact CD release can be bought in this single disc format (a maximum-length collection of the minimalist’s string quartets) as well as the five CD box set in question. The most astounding feature of not just these pieces written for Kronos is that Riley’s music emerges as – in many ways – more complex, meandering and ‘thorny’ than the works of Philip Glass or even those of Steve Reich.

All of these pieces make for rich listening and require some concentration to fully appreciate the harmonic and melodic intricacies therein. Riley’s music has come a long way since In C to be sure. Riley and Kronos met more than 35 years ago, and since then, the quartet has commissioned 27 works from him, more than from any other composer in the group’s history. Kronos’ violinist, founder, and artistic director David Harrington says of the Quartet’s remarkably fruitful relationship with Terry Riley, which began in the late 1970s at Mills College in Oakland, California: “There is no other composer who has added so many new musical words to our vocabulary, words from so many corners of the musical world”. Riley, in fact, knows hundreds of cutting-edge composers and has introduced them to members of Kronos, and vice versa.

Riley, for his part, has said that “Each of our projects together (with the Kronos Quartet) was launched by conversations with both David and me riffing on ideas. I always came away from these planning sessions feeling exhilarated, and these energies would soon get my pen moving toward a melody or a rhythmic pattern—or, in the case of Salome Dances for Peace, a five-quartet cycle. David has this gift, a unique catalytic effect on so many collaborators. Because of this gift, we have this astounding body of work created for Kronos over the past four decades.”

This very rewarding collection includes two of Riley’s best known works for Kronos, Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector and Cadenza on the Night Plain. The works are less well known and represent some unusual finds. For example, G Song is vintage Riley and a bit more “minimalist” than the bigger, Eastern inspired larger works.

I was especially impressed, as a new discovery, with Lacrymosa – Remembering Kevin. This is a beautiful and somewhat elegiac work that I view similarly to his poignant Requiem for Adam, written in memory of David Harrington’s son; only sixteen at the time of his death. I could not find information regarding the ‘Kevin’ for whom Riley wrote the Lacrymosa but it shows another side of this revolutionary composer who seems to have many sides.  This is a wonderful collection and how can one not like the amazing artistry of the innovative, often daring, Kronos Quartet.

If you have actually never heard anything of Terry Riley, this disc – or even the five disc set – is a good place to begin. If you are a longtime listener, as I am, this is an essential find and a “must-have.”  There are probably many reasons why names like Philip Glass, John Adams and Steve Reich are better known but there are many reasons why Terry Riley and his music deserve to be another essential name in the then radical “minimalism” movement of the last third of the twentieth century. I encourage you to go find out why.

—Daniel Coombs

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