The Signpost: Cello and piano duet crosses musical genres

September 17, 2011

The audience stood to applaud as a piano and cello concert came to an end on Friday night in Weber State University’s Austad Auditorium. The success of the instrumental duet, featuring pianist Christopher O’Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz, was amplified through the music of Bach and Chopin, as well as more modern musicians like the group Radiohead.


“It’s good to see the similarities between classical and pop styles,” said Billy Cundiff, a senior and cellist at WSU. “The artists worked well together with similar tastes and styles.”

Between numbers, Haimovitz compared the performance to a shuffled playlist of songs on an iPod. Many WSU students said they found the concert to be a dramatic starting point for opening the musical season for the Val A. Browning Center at WSU.

“I was very impressed,” said Mitch Jenkins, a junior at WSU and cellist. “I really loved their style.”

Both O’Riley and Haimovitz have garnered successful reputations from their bodies of award-winning work. On top of his work at the piano, O’Riley helps young artists perform and succeed. He is the host of a popular radio series on National Public Radio called From the Top, based out of Carnegie Hall in New York, in which he works with young artists in front of a live audience. The show has since been turned into a PBS television program, and is now entering its third season.

O’Riley is also famous for his work in blending musical styles. His most famous recording, a cover of Radiohead’s album True Love Waits, was awarded four stars in Rolling Stone. He once performed the Superstar Etude No. 1, inspired by the pianism of rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis.

Haimovitz was nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album, and has won a Grammy for Best Producer of the Year (classical) [sic]. He has been performing as a soloist since he was 13 (1984), when he played with the Israel Philharmonic. His career has taken him all around the world since then.

The cellist has also gained in experience in multiple musical genres.In 2010, his album Figment consisted mainly of a listening-room tour of (mostly) solo cello music, exploring the musical riches and diversity of his two home countries, the U.S. and Canada. This album was followed up by another, AKOKA, a live recording that reframed Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with works by klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer and hip-hop artist Socalled.

“The performance was very outside-the-box and had a creative style,” said Amy Elmer, a senior WSU orchestra member.

The concert was presented by WSU Cultural Affairs, which is responsible for bringing in famous outside acts to campus. Past performers the department has brought in include San Francisco’s male vocal ensemble Chanticleer and Eastern European female vocal ensemble Kitka.

O’Riley will be back in March of 2012 for a live radio concert taping at the Val A. Browning Center. It will consist of young classical musicians for From the Top on NPR.

by Emily Hoops

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