Riley: Solo piano improvisations from The Harp of New Albion; Salome Dances for Peace

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COMPOSERS: Riley
LABELS: Amiata Records
WORKS: Solo piano improvisations from The Harp of New Albion; Salome Dances for Peace
PERFORMER: Terry Riley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ARNR 0292 DDD
In its early days, before Minimalism got ideas above its station and was hailed as the answer to all the ills of contemporary music, Terry Riley was one of its purest spirits. His pieces of the 1960s, such as In C and A Rainbow in Curved Air, had a naive effectiveness and flexibility which the later aggrandisements of Glass and Adams could never recapture. While his younger contemporaries have gone on to excessive fame and fortune, Riley has sought another path, favouring mysticism over Mammon, reinforcing the element of improvisation in his musical structures, and renewing his early links with the American experimental tradition.

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It is difficult, though, to make great claims for Riley’s music on this disc, a sequence of piano meditations from a concert performance in 1986. These include movements from The Harp of New Albion composed two years earlier. Riley uses a piano tuned in just temperament, giving his sound world an intriguing tang, but the musical substance is slender. There is nothing confrontational in these gently lapping figures and cosy harmonies, but equally nothing to hold the attention or to encourage further exploration after the initial experience has slipped harmlessly away. Andrew Clements