Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

American Record Guide, June 2007

Riley leaves the exact scoring of his masterly In C open to any possibilities. Up to now, the strangest performance I've heard was one by the Shanghai Film Orchestra on Celestial Harmonies (no review). The performers played traditional Chinese instruments with a traditional Chinese tuning. As one might guess from Paul Hiller's presence, this one gives pride of places to voices, though there are plenty of percussion instruments around as well.

Ars Nova Copenhagen is a great group of singers; I first encountered them in a recording of Cage's Hymns and Variations on Mode and was impressed with their impeccable tuning and lustrous tone. As Paul Hillier's notes relate, Riley has supplied a score underlaid with "sacred syllables"; these give the 50-odd modules a lot of variety and, yes, a little mystery as well. A few percussion instruments offer the pulsing Cs that hold the piece together and also play other music. And a number of large gongs or bell-like instruments seem to flesh out the ideas with long, sonorous tones that alternately underline or confound the harmony.

This leads to my main criticism: many of the musical ideas seem to differ from the score. Of course, I shouldn't be bound to the idea of an unalterable, urtext-like score, especially with a piece as unusual as In C; but I would like to know a bit more about the alterations made and the rationale for them. Sometimes the harmonies become too muddy when the male voices sing in their lowest register.

But this release astonishes me more than it annoys me, and I think most of the work's devotees will like it very much. Even so, I would not want this release to dislodge the original Sony recording with musicians from the State University of New York at Buffalo (Nov/Dec1988) or the glorious 25th-anniversary concert performance on New Albion. Mr Sullivan found the Bang on a Can All Stars recording elegant (Cantaloupe, Jan/Feb 2002); I haven't heard it,but I imagine it lacks humanity. If nothing else, the Ars Nova release humanizes Riley's work-as it should-and in a manner that makes the music sound remarkably new.

David Patrick Stearns
The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2007

If there's a ground zero of musical minimalism, it's Terry Riley's seminal In C, which in 1964 reinvented music as a source of hypnotic pulse and counterpoint - among many other things - that continues to inspire Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and others. However, this Moses-like work hasn't always been a candidate for the musical Promised Land - until this recording, which is transcribed for a 12-voice ensemble (singing prescribed "sacred syllables," according to the composer) backed with mallet-based percussion instruments.

The result is a heightened sensuality that makes the piece enjoyable to a wider audience and more absorbing than ever. Though much of the singing is taken up with layers of rhythmic chanting, some of the longer, higher vocal lines allow this counterrevolutionary piece to take on coincidental associations with Renaissance polyphony. Who'd have thought?

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, March 2007

Terry Riley's 1964 minimalist masterpiece "In C" has been treated in all sorts of ways, as various performing ensembles have created versions ranging from the blissed out to the aggressively edgy. Now conductor Paul Hillier and two Danish groups -- the chorus Ars Nova Copenhagen and the percussion ensemble Percurama -- conjure up a new and ravishingly beautiful "In C," scored exclusively for voices and mallet instruments. A single marimba sets the pulse, and other marimbas provide soft highlights. But the main vehicle for Riley's repeated melodic atoms is the singers, their voices blending into a multicolored choral melange that reveals yet another side of this seemingly inexhaustible work. What comes through this time is not the piece's rhythmic edge but its links to medieval music, with long-sustained tones set against rapid figuration. The effect is stupendous.

The Buffalo News, March 2007

It's hard to imagine that any music library doesn't already own recordings of multiple performances of this foundational minimalist work, but since the performing parameters are so loose, each version tends to sound quite different. This one is spectacularly lovely, and while it probably makes little sense to call any one version "definitive," this is perhaps the most enjoyable one I've heard.

Baker & Taylor CD Hotlist, March 2007

Terry Riley’s “In C” from 1964 is one of the proto-masterpieces of minimalism, the movement that hoped to clear hopelessly unlovable post-serialism out of international concert halls (and eventually came close to succeeding). You’d think at this stage 43 years later that it would be virtually impossible to conceive of an entirely new way to perform “In C” but Paul Hillier has in this wonderful all-vocal version supplemented only by marimbas and vibraphone. It is even better news that he is also engaged in recording another hypnotic contemplation object from four years later, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Stimmung.”

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group