The Washington Examiner: Shuffle. Play. Listen … and enjoy

March 22, 2012

Pianist Christopher O’Riley takes great delight in astounding his fans in the concert hall and listeners of his “From The Top” NPR show with unlikely connections between classical and pop music. Some time ago, he and cellist Matt Haimovitz discovered they are kindred souls searching  for crossover opportunities to merge the lyrical voice of the cello with the passion of the piano.

The result is “Shuffle. Play. Listen,” a program emerging from their two-disc album by the same name.

This Saturday they will perform works from the collaboration at the George Mason University Center for the Arts. Audience members will be prepared for the concept by a pre-performance discussion held 45 minutes before the concert.

On the first disc, O’Riley’s arrangements weave the textures and harmonies of such unlikely compositions as Bernard Herrmann’s “Vertigo Suite” and Leos Janacek’s romantic “Fairy Tale” with a side trip to the glorious Gypsy atmosphere of Bohuslav Martinu’s “Variations on a Slovak Folksong.” The mood beckons to Igor Stravinsky’s love affair with the past in his elegant “Suite Italienne” before the musical journey segues from Italy to Argentina as O’Riley and Haimovitz celebrate Astor Piazzolla’s “Le Grand Tango,” ultimately coming to rest with “Scene d’amour” from the “Vertigo Suite.”Shuffle.Play.Listen

“Matt’s cello is in virtually all the arrangements,” O’Riley said. “The goal is to first find out what is plausible. I sometimes make an alternate harmony if the opportunity presents itself on the program.

“Matt has a microphone on the bridge of his cello so he can amplify segments of a piece depending on the hall. It’s nice to have amplification to fill all the nooks and crannies.”

“We’ll present some new material in this show with Anton Webern’s Opus 11, three little pieces for cello and piano,” O’Riley said. “We’ll play one movement of Webern, then something by Radiohead followed by another Webern and the Tarantella from Stravinsky’s ‘Suite Italienne.’ It’s a textural thing. I can tell when the audience is interested and open to new suggestions. New listeners are often ready for new experiences and will venture on their own to learn more about groups like Radiohead, which I’ve often sneaked in on my show. On the other hand, folks steeped in classical music may not be able to accept that they have enjoyed listening to something written 10 years ago instead of 200. It’s a personal situation and I’m past wringing my hands over it.”


by Emily Cary

View article at The Examiner

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