C RILEY Shenanigans
That Colin Riley (b1963) is, in his own words, ‘a composer of no fixed indoctrination’ feels less provocative a statement than it would have been during his formative years in the early 1980s; an era when, as Christopher Fox suggests in his illuminating booklet note, ‘classical’ composers were still expected to keep their non-classical predilections firmly under wraps.
Through to the present, and this disc (the first to be devoted to his music) focuses on works written over the decade from 2005. Riley evidently composes in terms of miniatures that can subsequently be brought together in larger groups – exemplified here by Lyric Pieces, which will eventually expand into a larger collection. As it stands, each of these six pieces takes its cue from a notable pop or rock song, though any musical as opposed to textual allusions are by no means explicit in music whose instrumental interplay results in melodic lines of teasing obliqueness. With their Beckett-like titles, the Three Movements are more understated still, while Shenanigans comprises six pieces whose playful titles instigate music of a rather more sardonic humour. As the Tender Twilight Covers uses lines by Rabindranath Tagore in a relatively lengthy piano elegy touching on emotional depths without risk of portentousness.
There is sensitive playing from Matthew Schellhorn in this latter piece, as there is equally by the performers in the ensemble collections. Those responsive to, say, the deft poise of Howard Skempton or the barbed wit of Laurence Crane will find much to engage and absorb them.