September 30, 2011
One of the coolest recordings I’ve come across lately is “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” featuring Christopher O’Riley, the remarkably creative and engaging pianist and host of the popular NPR show “From the Top,” and the equally adventurous cellist Matt Haimovitz.
Ready-made for iPodders, this release from Oxingale Records offers one disc of mostly classical selections and another of pop/rock songs arranged by O’Riley. You can load the discs onto a music device, hit “shuffle,” then sit back and enjoy crossing from one musical border to another and back again. You don’t have to be that literal, though. I enjoyed hearing each disc straight through.
The whole set would be worth having if only for …
O’Riley’s brilliant arrangements on Disc 1 of Bernard Herrmann’s music from the Hitchcock classic “Vertigo.” O’Riley effectively captures the essence of Hermann’s indelible soundtrack, and the pianist’s richly expressive playing is matched by Haimovitz in atmospheric performances that may have you feeling a little dizzy. Selections from O’Riley’s “Vertigo” Suite are interspersed with colorful music by Janacek, Martinu and Stravinsky (the ordering provides built-in shuffling on this disc); the artists deliver that repertoire impressively, too.
O’Riley, long admired for his piano arrangements of songs by Radiohead, fills Disc 2 with keyboard/cello versions of pieces by that group, as well as Arcade Fire, Cocteau Twins and more.
I confess I don’t know all of the source material (whatever gaps remain in my rock awareness, I still listen to more non-classical stuff than the typical rock fan ever embraces Bruckner, I’d bet). But O’Riley’s arrangements sound awfully persuasive to me, filled with vivid writing for both instruments, and the two musicians sound deeply connected to the material.
As part of a CD-promoting tour, O’Riley and Haimovitz are coming to town. They will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at An die Musik.
Meanwhile, here’s a taste of the artists in action during the recording of “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” performing their version of “Empty Room” by Arcade Fire:
by Tim Smith
View at Baltimore Sun‘s Clef Notes