Founding Editor Rob Barnett Editor in Chief
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny MusicWeb Webmaster
David Barker Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf MusicWeb Founder Len Mullenger
Terry RILEY (b. 1935) In C
rec. 2018, Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw BÔŁT BR1049 [62:47]
Terry Riley is thought of as the father of minimalist music with In C, with its complex repeated patterns, often being described as the impetus for those who would follow. The work was composed in 1964 and was inspired by performances by African and Indian musicians with the influences of these cultures being easily found in this music. It received its premiere at the San Francisco Tape Centre with Steve Reich included in the performers and was first recording in 1968 by Columbia, subsequently released on CD, including in 2009 on Columbia Masterworks (88697 45368 2), which is the version that I have on disc.
Terry Riley devised In C as a group of musical cells which would flow into each other at a tempo to be chosen by the performers; this has led to recordings ranging from under thirty minutes to well over an hour. It was also intended to be interpreted by those instruments that a particular ensemble had at its disposal, with the result being that different performances and recordings can sound quite different from one another; that is the case here with the emphasis being placed on the side of Polish music, with a blend of those instruments found in traditional music with those from a more usual classical ensemble. There is no set number of musicians that can be involved, although Riley stipulates that it should not exceed thirty-five – he himself chose a much smaller ensemble for his first recording, with this present recording featuring fourteen musicians with some doubling up.
To compare with the original recording seems counterproductive, because as already stated, each performance was designed to sound differently, which is certainly the case with the couple of other recordings I have heard as well, with different recordings emphasising differing aspects of the music. That being said, this recording with its blend of traditional Polish and standard orchestral instruments is wonderful, with the use of the accordion, hurdy gurdy and dulcimer seeming to express the Indian influences on Riley, but which can also sound Cajun at times. This is carried over also with the vocalists giving a more ethnic performance of the music. As a result, this is a performance which, whilst retaining the core of the original, blends the instruments to produce a sound which is quite new and exciting, one which is well worth investing in, even if you have one of Terry Riley’s own takes on CD. This is a work that I never tire of.
The disc is presented in a double gatefold card sleeve with two pages of informative notes, that discuss the original and this new recording, whilst the recording is sharp and detailed with every blend and note captured in crystal clear.