All things Strings: ‘Shuffle. Play. Listen.’ Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley blend pop and classical covers

November 17, 2011


Shuffle.Play.Listen. is by far one of the most eclectic and interesting audiophonic adventures that I’ve had the pleasure of embarking upon of late. Celebrated cellist Matt Haimovitz, longtime proponent of breaking down musical barriers, pairs up with NPR/PBS From the Top host and acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Riley (known for his 2003 solo piano recording of Radiohead and similar covers), for a mind-blowing, genre-bending two-disc release that travels across a vast and variant symphonic landscape.

There’s no time to work your way into the discs, no time to stop for a cup of tea and catch your breath before being launched into the music.

Still, the recordings do open with a prelude, but not in the traditional sense. Shuffle.Play.Listen. revs up with an eerie and powerful new arrangement of Bernard Herrmann’s “Prelude Suite” from the iconic Hitchcock film Vertigo (in honor of the maestro’s 100th birthday).


If you’re brave and choose to settle in for a beginning-to-end, back-to-back listen of both discs (which I highly recommend), be prepared for a wild ride. Haimovitz and O’Riley’s lineup boldly brings together such pop and classical fare as Piazzolla, Radiohead, Martinu, Arcade Fire, Janacek, the Cocteau Twins, and Stravinsky. Despite the seemingly haphazard selection, this collection is beautifully stitched together. It never feels trite, and the second disc—which showcases the bulk of the more contemporary piece—is far from a sterile recapitulation of pop tunes rehashed for strings.
Shuffle.Play.Listen. by Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley

Each piece, traditional and otherwise, carries serious symphonic weight and Haimovitz and O’Riley own each line—this twosome creates a singular, new interpretation of each of these previously recorded works that successfully sounds and feels electric and alive.

Haimovitz’s musical zeal, plus O’Riley’s amazing finesse, equals a powerhouse sound that vacillates wildly between whispery plaintiveness (Arcade Fire’s “In the Backseat”), emotive intensity (Herrmann “Carlotta’s Portrait”), and enviable improvisational prowess (John McLaughlin’s “A Lotus on Irish Streams”). The latter piece closes this unconventional recording, appropriately rounding out a wonderfully diverse musical experience performed by two incredibly complex artists.

by Heather K. Scott

View on the All Things Strings website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s