The Big City Blog: 2011 Year’s Best Classical

December 31, 2011

shuffle1 credit Sarah Scott

No. 1  Matt Haimovitz and Christo­pher O’Riley, Shuffle.Play.Listen/Todd Reynolds, Out­er­bor­ough: Tied because they are so closely related and so very fine. There are musi­cal and styl­is­tic dif­fer­ences, but the under­ly­ing val­ues are shared, mak­ing these ideal com­pan­ions and, most of all, discs you should own.

Reynolds’ release is a disc of him play­ing his own com­po­si­tions and another where he plays music writ­ten for him by Michael Gor­don, David Lang, Phil Kline, David T. Lit­tle, Nick Zam­muto, Paul de Jong, Ken Thom­son, Michael Lowen­stern and Paula Matthusen. As a solo player, Reynold’s works with the loop­ing, struc­tur­ing and pro­cess­ing fea­tures of tools like Able­ton Live and Max/MSP, and the works writ­ten for him make cre­ative use of elec­tronic means as well, build­ing multi-tracked parts, rhythms and elec­tronic sounds. The over­all sen­si­bil­ity is at the pin­na­cle of pop-inflected Post-Minimalism, from Phil Kline’s gor­geous, intense “Nee­dle Pulling Fred” to the chat­ter­ing flow of de Jong’s “Inward Bound” to the thrash­ing crunch of Lang’s “Killer,” a piece that com­bines the best of Bang on a Can clas­sics “Indus­try” and “Lying, Cheart­ing, Steal­ing.” It’s fun­da­men­tally all Reynolds, the play­ing and the view. It’s his ecu­meni­cal view and smart, refined taste that brings the pieces together, and it’s his tremen­dous musi­cian­ship that is at the core. Across both discs, there is a sense of free­dom and spon­tane­ity that come out of his skill and expres­sion as a musi­cian and that gives every­thing the feel­ing that it is unfin­ished in the best sense, that when you hit the repeat but­ton (and you will) you will hear some­thing you didn’t the last play.Shuffle.Play.Listen

Out­er­bor­ough is the best exam­ple of the rest­less, cre­ative rela­tion­ship between com­po­si­tion and pop music going on in con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal, as is Shuffle.Play.Listen. Where Reynolds is pio­neer­ing orig­i­nal work, Christo­pher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz are mix­ing together a wide range of superb mod­ern clas­si­cal music with O’Riley’s trans­for­ma­tive arrange­ments of cur­rent pop music. The result is densely packed with great sounds.

The first of the two CDs is struc­tured through a suite of music from Bernard Herrmann’s excep­tional score for the movie “Ver­tigo.” In between move­ments, there is Janacek’s “Fairy Tale,” Martinu’s “Vari­a­tions on a Slo­vak Folk­song,” Stravinsky’s “Suite Ital­i­enne,” (a reduc­tion of his bal­let Pul­cinella), and “Le grand tango” from Astor Piaz­zolla. The play­ing is volup­tuously fab­u­lous, cham­ber music-making of the high­est order. O’Riley has great touch and is a sen­si­tive accom­pa­nist, while Haimovitz brings his unique abil­ity to vocal­ize melodic lines to each piece, and every­thing sings, even the non-vocal com­po­si­tions. The sequenc­ing of the music is fas­ci­nat­ing and rich.

The sec­ond CD tra­verses Arcade Fire, Radio­head, Cocteau Twins, Blond Red­head, A Per­fect Cir­cle and Mahav­ishnu Orchestra-era John McLaugh­lin. Like with Reynolds, O’Riley and Haimovitz accept as a given the qual­ity of the songs and the play the shit out of them. Haimovitz’s abil­ity to shape lines with the types of catches, fall-offs and the illu­sion of breath­ing that comes from the voice pushes these to an urgency of expres­sion that makes the orig­i­nals all sound a lit­tle cooler, and lit­tle more with­drawn. “The Pyra­mid Song” is haunt­ing and plan­gent, “Melody” is rav­ish­ing, “Heaven or Las Vegas” is a flow­ing pas­toral. The excep­tion to this full­ness they add to the pop music is the refined focus they give to “The Dance of Maya,” in a superb arrange­ment. The orig­i­nal is crush­ingly intense, here it’s qui­eter but just as provoca­tively obses­sive. This great record­ing closes with “A Lotus on Irish Streams,” in a beau­ti­ful impro­vi­sa­tion that rounds off all the music but leaves, like Out­er­bor­ough, ten­drils of ques­tions and pos­si­bil­i­ties that will have you play­ing the music all over again.

by gtra1n

View at The Big City Blog

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