Kirk O’Riordan

composer | conductor | saxophonist

compositions for piano

Twenty Six Preludes (2014) 46’
Commissioned by Holly Roadfeldt

Score Sample

Audio: (Unedited demo recordings)

I. molto legato, lightly and spirited
II. dancing, with quiet energy
III. misterioso, distant
IV. molto legatissimo; brooding
V. very slowly, deliberately
VI. agitato, unsettled
VII. floating, with trepidation
VIII. hushed, with energy
IX. child-like, with simplicity
X. sparkling; bright, with energy
XI. freely, blurry
XII. gently, fragile
XIII. presto feroce, with intensity
XIV. very slowly, languishing
XV. molto misterioso; whispering
XVI. legatissimo, like bells
XVII. hypnotic, distant
XVIII. energetic, exuberant
XIX. molto misterioso; “will o’ the wisp”
XX. sparkling; light and crystalline
XXI. languishing, very distant
XXII. with longing
XXIII. molto rubato; fluid, expressive
XXIV. floating, like distant chimes
XXV. frenetic, with energy
XXVI. gently, with sadness

Premiere: November 17, 2014, The University at Albany; Holly Roadfeldt, piano.

Twenty-six Preludes was composed for Holly Roadfeldt between September 2013 and April 2014.

Unlike the famous preludes by composers like Bach, Chopin, and Debussy, mine are not organized by key. Instead, they are organized by “threads:” compositional ideas that are developed over the course of the entire set. Composing the set in this manner allowed me to develop several ideas concurrently with the idea that they would in some way merge together by the end of the set, giving the several disparate ideas a real reason to exist together in the same set. In addition, because I was not using key as a resource, I was not constrained by the number 24.

The end result is a cycle of preludes that is in some ways more closely related to a Schubertian song cycle than to the Preludes of Chopin, Bach, or Debussy. That is not to say that there is not a close conceptual connection with the Preludes of those masters (there are subtle references to each of those composers in the score), but my intention was to treat the Preludes in a cyclical fashion rather than, as is the case with Bach and Chopin, an exploration of the nuances of the 24 keys.

The preludes were not composed in the order that they are presented. Some of them came in quick bunches: two or three in a day; others took longer. In addition to developing the compositional threads, I was interested in creating a wide range of moods that also held together as a set. Overall, the moods become more intense as the set unfolds.

Available on The Preludes Project by pianist Holly Roadfeldt. See Recordings for information on how to purchase this and other recordings.

"The Chopin is the carrot perhaps for those tentative about exploring new music. The second disc here features a complete set of 26 preludes which Roadfeldt commissioned from Kirk O’Riordan. O’Riordan teaches at Lafayette College where he is noted for his programming as the Director of the college’s concert band. The pieces here were composed between 2013-2014 and premiered in November, 2014. The formal organization here is a bit different then using different key centers. For this work, O’Riordan uses a musical idea, or “thread”, that becomes transformed as the set proceeds often with these lines coming together. The result is a more large-scale connected cycle of pieces that should hold up well on repeated listening. The style which opens this set may feel more like a minimalist flurry of arpeggios, but the music does not stay on a pitch level. The accessible language lands firmly in a sort of post-romantic tradition with open intervals which makes some of the dissonant moments rather easy to appreciate. The energy of the first prelude flows into the second only to be brought to a rather stunning stop in the mysterious third prelude. These shifts of mood create a unique sense of drama in the piece as a whole helping to see some of the larger connections as the work unfolds. The set is an important addition to the literature with the same sort of requirements for subtlety and technique found in the Chopin. Some of the slower moments have an almost impressionist quality, hearkening perhaps to another famous set of piano preludes, those by Debussy. As the set progresses, the lines become slightly more angular settling in to a more contemporary sound. Therein lies the additional appeal both of this set of pieces and Roadfeldt’s project exploring this particular piano art form." —Steven Kennedy, Cinemusical




Lacrimosa (2011) 8’
Commissioned by Holly Roadfeldt

Score Sample

Premiere: February 5, 2013, Lafayette College, Easton PA; Holly Roadfeldt, piano

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.

Mournful that day.
When from the ashes shall rise
a guilty man to be judged.
Lord, have mercy on him.
Gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest.
Amen.

Available on Strange Flowers. See Recordings for information on how to purchase this and other recordings.

”This incredible collection concludes with O’Riordan’s Lacrimosa for solo piano. This is a very meditative and prayer-like work that uses a harmonic progression with very sparse rhythmic variety to invoke a sense of reflection. It is said that the composer thought of some of the great vocal invocations of the “lachrymae” as in the Requiems of Mozart or Verdi to depict human introspection.” —Audiophile Audition




Humming Spheres for Two Pianos (2010) 11’
Composed for Holly Roadfeldt and Julie Nishimura

Score Sample

Premiere: April 13, 2010, University of Delaware; Holly Roadfeldt and Julie Nishimura, pianos

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
--Pythagoras




Three Pieces for Solo Piano(2003) 12’
Commissioned for Holly Roadfeldt

Score Samples:

I. Moto perpetuo
II. Cadenza-Espressivo
III. Toccata

Premiere: March 21, 2003, Colorado Christian University: College Music Society Rocky Mountain Chapter Conference. Holly Roadfeldt, piano

Three Pieces for Solo Piano was written for and is dedicated to Holly Roadfeldt-O’Riordan. She premiered the work on March 21 , 2003 at the College Music Society Rocky Mountain Chapter Conference.

The first movement, Moto Perpetuo, features a galloping melody set against a stream of sixteenth notes. The second, Cadenza-Espressivo, uses bell-like sonorities which are constructed from the pitch material of the third movement. The Toccata is a tremendously virtuosic work which uses virtually every note on the keyboard, ending with large chords reminiscent of the first movement.

The pieces use a more dissonant language than I have used in the past, placing emphasis on such traditionally dissonant intervals as the tritone and the minor second (particularly in the third movement). The result, however, is a surprisingly tonal (though chromatic)sound which generates a great deal of en ergy.




Water Lilies for Solo Piano (2000) 9’
Composed for Holly Roadfeldt

Score Sample

Premiere: March 2000, Arizona State University; Holly Roadfeldt, piano

Water Lilies for Solo Piano is the second in a series of Water Lilies pieces, which also includes versions for chamber winds and orchestra. Each version is based on the same melodic idea; in each piece this idea is developed using different compositional procedures. The result is a series of noticeably related but distinct pieces.

The idea for these pieces comes from my impressions of an exhibit of Monet's Water Lilies at the Musée de L’Orangerie in Paris. The room that these magnificent works are displayed in is in the shape of an oval; and when sitting in the middle of the room one has the distinct impression that one is in the middle of Monet's pond.

My Water Lilies are not necessarily an attempt to reproduce each painting in sound; rather, they represent the attempt to reproduce the feeling of being surrounded by these images, which from far away seem perfectly clear and photographic but up close are rather blurry and repetitive. Indeed, Monet's genius lies in his ability to make his audience look upon his art from afar, taking in the whole view at once rather than focusing on the details of its construction. This series of pieces attempts to recreate this effect in sound.

”Water Lilies for solo piano illustrates O’Riordan’s talents in writing for piano quite well. This is a beautiful work that the composer acknowledges pays some homage to the water lily paintings of Claude Monet. This ethereal, nearly impressionistic piece places us in an imaginary space wherein the piano’s shifting harmonies and dynamics flow as if in a circle where colors come in and out as go the textures of the piano. This is a wonderful work that seems almost too brief for its beauty; it begs for more.” —Audiophile Audition


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Lafayette College
Easton, Pennsylvania
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