Billings Gazette: Musicians bring fire to world premier Friday at ABT

January 17, 2011

Three standing ovations weren’t enough to adequately thank cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley Friday night for their mind-bending performance at the Alberta Bair Theater.

In a season of world premiers at the ABT, “Shuffle. Play Listen” will stand out as the grandest adventure of all. The theater debuted Hubbard Street 2’s modern dance performance in October and is debuting Carpe Deim Quartet’s new work in April. But the collaboration between the two world-class innovators Friday night will be very difficult to beat. Haimovitz opened the show with two solo cello works and gave a nod to the audience and the theater for giving the musicians a place to “hang out and practice in for a couple of days.”

“It’s a rarity to be able to play the diverse music we are performing tonight,” Haimovitz said.

Haimovitz performed passionately on Bach’s Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1.  And then, Haimovitz jumped forward a couple of centuries to perform one of several John McLaughlin compositions that he and O’Riley worked up for the concert. His fingers a blur, Haimovitz bounced, carved, and fluttered his bow across the strings producing music that simmered and then boiled over in ecstacy. O’Riley bent low over the keys, thundering his hands across them, alternately plucking and pounding.Shuffle.Play.Listen

And so the evening went, sublime interpretations of classical works, including a stunning “Italian Suite” by Stravinsky, which Haimovitz played in celebration of his Italian-made cello’s 300th birthday, were followed by jaw-dropping new works massaged into magic like Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song.”

I heard a couple of audience members mumble, “Who’s Radiohead?” early on in the two-hour performance. My bet is, they’re now looking for a copy of O’Riley’s highly praised CD “Hold Me To This: Christopher O’Riley plays the Music of Radiohead.”

By Jaci Webb

View article at Billings Gazette

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