- General informationOpen or CloseColin Riley: ShenanigansNMC Recordings NMC D241
released 20 October 2017
In this album of Colin Riley’s music, Matthew Schellhorn performs his second commission from the composer, As the Tender Twilight Covers, premiered at York Late Music and recorded here in 2016
- Track listOpen or Close01. Three Movements: I Purl 5'48"
02. Three Movements: II Wane 6'34"
03. Three Movements: III Bob 5'35"
04. Lyric Pieces: I All My Failings Exposed 3'55"
05. Lyric Pieces: II Right to the End of Our River 5'42"
06. Lyric Pieces: III A Kind of Green 3'12"
07. Lyric Pieces: IV Close the Door, Put Out the Light 4'06"
08. Lyric Pieces: V Something In Our Minds Will Always Stay 3'05"
09. Lyric Pieces: VI The Bluegirls Have All Gone Away 6'55"
10. Shenanigans: I A Cool Carfuffle 2'29"
11. Shenanigans: II Lazy Legs Lollop 2'45"
12. Shenanigans: III Before and After 2'06"
13. Shenanigans: IV Cockaloop 3'05"
14. Shenanigans: V Curly Birds 1'41"
15. Shenanigans: VI Swan Song 4'28"
16. As the Tender Twilight Covers 9'08"
- DescriptionOpen or CloseTom Lessels (clarinet)
Kate Halsall (piano)
Genevieve Wilkins (percussion)
Rebecca Hepplewhite (cello)
Celine Saout (harp)
Nicola Summerscales (alto flute)
Samantha Wickramasinghe (violin)
Jessica Beeston (viola)
Matthew Schellhorn (piano)
Colin Riley's work draws on a range of elements including improvisation, new technologies, song-writing and large-scale classical form. His work is impossible to categorize, embodying a genuine integration of stylistic approaches. As an established, but ever questioning figure within the contemporary music scene over the last 20 years he has cut an independent path through many layers of trends and styles. We are delighted to welcome Colin to the NMC catalogue with this album showcasing his chamber works, written between 2005 and 2015. Many of the tracks on this album are energetic and playful, with more than a hint of jazz. In Lyric Pieces Riley is influenced by his emotional links to songs (and their lyrics) by post punk, prog and rock bands that he listened to when he was a teenager.
- ReviewsOpen or CloseThat Colin Riley (b 1963) 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.
Gramophone (November 2017)As with many contemporary composers Colin Riley’s music is hard to categorise.
The definition of “shenanigans” is “highly spirited behaviour”, and in general terms that fits pretty well for all the music on this disc, not just the work which goes by that title.
These four chamber pieces for varying instruments are a whirlwind of variety, vignettes flashing past, jazzy, lyrical, skittish. The titles of the longest collection, Lyric Pieces, recall pop songs from Riley’s teenage years in the 1970s.
Every sound is precisely conceived. The performances sparkle with character.
Financial Times (November 2017)This portrait album of composer Colin Riley is a charmer: fun name, fun cover art, opening track a taut and wonky disco called Purl. But it’s more than that, too, and there’s something very endearing (and possibly very British?) about the way Riley deflects the beauty and sincerity at the heart of his pieces by giving them names such as Bob or A Cool Carfuffle, and framing his serious moments with music that fools around. Inspirations include Genesis, John Martyn and Joy Division; there’s a delicate set of Lyric Pieces, and a closing piano solo in dreamy soft-grain called As the Tender Twilight Covers. The title work is a collection of six miniatures, whose lopsided rhythms are cut with snippets of gentler stuff. The performances (violist Jessica Beeston, clarinettist Tom Lessels, pianist Kate Halsall and others) get the right balance of wry, fond, understated and slightly bonkers.
The Guardian (November 2017)