The four pieces on this album were composed by Kirk O’Riordan between 2012 and 2018. Although I am familiar with all of his compositions and have performed many of them, this collection of works is especially alluring. All of the works represent what Kirk values as a composer, yet there are characteristics that even he may not see as vividly: a spiritual awareness of the human psyche, a vibrant resonance with nature, an aching vulnerability, an ardent need for introspection, and an unwavering acknowledgement that our collective consciousness is much more powerful than what is possessed by the individual.
The rehearsal process was exhausting yet enlightening, productive yet decidedly personal. Fortunately, we were able to complete our soul-searching work at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute where focused practice could be interwoven with an abundance of reflection, laughter, and of course, a few tears. We practiced, we studied, we performed, and we rehearsed some more for 11 days; then Andreas Meyer guided us through our final steps. We were most grateful to have such a gifted engineer proceed with our visions, our hearts, and our music.
Four Beautiful Songs is the work that we all performed together. It is a collection of settings of poems by Kirk’s close friend and colleague Lee Upton. The poems address the concept of “beauty” in different ways: from both the eye of the beholder and the beheld. These texts are witty, charming, and poignant—typical of Lee’s work, but also of Lee, herself. We frequently consider beauty while making comparisons, but Lee also reminds us of the pain when the admiration is misdirected. Kirk’s settings masterfully show the wonder, the conflict, the joy, and the turbulence that come from multiple interpretations of what is beautiful.
Composed in the same year as Four Beautiful Songs, Prayer Stones is more quietly spiritual. It is a gentle, contemplative work that is a series of short meditations. Like the small prayer stones one can use for personal reflection, the music is held close, shared with a cherished friend, and then joyously expressed to the universe.
Autumn Winds is a setting of 15 haiku by the Japanese master Matsuo Basho. Like the haiku form, each song is a miniature. Each haiku contains the words “autumn winds” and each deals with that image as a literal image and as a metaphor. As we read through each song, Ann and I became completely mesmerized by the unified melodic and textural gestures, astounded by the poetry, and captivated by how each miniature led to the next. When we finished reading the entire set, we could not speak. We just cried.
Kirk’s compositional construction of Beautiful Nightmares emulates the kind of stream-of-consciousness experience of dreams, but leaves the real-life analysis to me. A strictly serial piece, it is a clever juxtaposition of music inspired by Arnold Schoenberg and a minimalistic style. It is one of many solo piano compositions that Kirk O’Riordan has written for me and I am forever thankful for our 25-year musical partnership. — Holly Roadfeldt, pianist
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Ravello Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.
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