WORKS: China Gates; Phrygian Gates. The Walrus in Memorium; The Heaven Ladder, Book 7
PERFORMER: Gloria Cheng-Cochran (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80513
Those who know Terry Riley only for In C will receive several surprises from this disc. The Heaven Ladder, Bk 7 (1994) – here recorded for the first time – is a collection of piano pieces demonstrating something of the variety of styles and wealth of invention that Riley has encompassed since moving away from hard-core minimalism and back to his roots.
Among these five pieces, ‘Ragtempus fugatis’ shows roots in both ragtime and Western classical music and is a delightful mixture of the strict and the free. The composer’s interest, as a student, in early Schoenberg as well as Chopin and the music of Brazil is well captured by the waltz-scherzo, ‘Venus in ’94’; while his enthusiasm for Spanish and Latin-American musics is evoked by the intriguingly contradictory energies of ‘Fandango on the Heaven Ladder’.
Phrygian Gates and its ‘little companion piece’ China Gates are early John Adams. Though more minimalist than Riley’s later output, they already demonstrate the more expansively Romantic tendencies for which this composer is famous. Gloria Cheng-Cochran approaches all these pieces – and Riley’s entertaining Beatles fantasy, The Walrus in Memorium – with sensitivity as well as gusto. Keith Potter