“I have finally realized the name of the concerto,” Riley wrote in a recent email. “It came to me as I was waking up the other morning in a post-dream, pre-awakened state.”
Nashville violinist Tracy Silverman, who will premiere the work at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center May 3-5, 2012 before taking it to Carnegie on May 12, says the name refers to the concerto’s opening tonality, a dissonant eight-note chord spelled A, B-sharp, C-sharp, D, E-sharp, F-sharp, G-sharp and A.
“The riddle has to do with the way the chord resolves itself over the course of the concerto’s 37-minute duration,” says Silverman. The affected spelling of "ryddle" is intended to suggest an ancient origin for the chord.
Riley, who celebrates his 76th birthday today, first came to fame in 1964 with the publication of In C, a seminal work that all but launched the minimalist movement in music and greatly influenced the likes of John Adams, Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
Silverman says the concerto, which is still in the final compositional stages, is very spontaneous, like an improvisation, and contains many exotic modes that call to mind Indian ragas. The work is also expansive and virtuosic.
“Terry has been thinking about writing this concerto for many years, and he intends it to be a major work,” says Silverman.
Riley’s concerto won’t be the only newsworthy American work that music director Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra take to Carnegie Hall next year. The symphony will also perform a new realization of Charles Ives’ Universe Symphony.
Ives, the great American maverick composer, spent the last two decades of his life working on this symphony. He left it unfinished at his death in 1954. Larry Austin, an American composer noted for his electronic and computer music, has arranged and completed the version of the symphony that the NSO will play. The NSO will close the concert with Percy Grainger’s The Warriors.
The Nashville Symphony’s Carnegie Hall performance is part of the annual Spring for Music festival. Tickets for that concert are a mere $25.