October 5, 2012
TROY – It was all about the cello on Friday evening, as the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall hosted a taping of “From the Top,” the weekly National Public Radio show that showcases the considerable talents of young classical musicians. And while selections by classical composers Rodion Shchedrin, David Popper, Mstislav Rostropovich and even a smidgen of Bach were performed throughout the 90-minute performance, the repertoire was hardly limited to the classical canon.
After a brief film explaining what “From the Top” is all about, executive producer Gerald Slavet came dancing out on stage to the funky sounds of James Brown’s “I Got You.” He introduced announcer Joanne Robinson, who engaged in a bit of comedy schtick before turning the proceedings over to the show’s host and pianist Christopher O’Riley.
The music got underway with 17-year-old Virgina cellist Miriam Liske-Doorandish, who launched into a dramatic interpretation of Shchedrin’s “In the Style of Albeniz.” She tackled the piece with conviction and confidence, bowing, strumming and plucking her cello with passion and flourish.
South Korean-born cellist Taeguk Mun – an 18-year-old freshman at New England Conservatory in Boston – was the other student performer, and he earned the most enthusiastic response of the night from the crowd for his playful rendition of Rostropovich’s “Humoresque, Opus 5,” taken at a breathless, breakneck tempo.
This special installment of “From the Top” also featured special guest cellist and musical maverick Matt Haimovitz, who is no stranger to Capital Region cello fans. Friday may have been his first theater performance in the area, but he has a penchant for taking his cello out of the concert halls and bringing it to nightclubs and coffeehouses that very rarely – if ever – showcase classical music, including Club Helsinki in Hudson, the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. and Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. Accompanied by O’Riley (with whom he collaborated on the sprawling, recent 2-CD set, “Shuffle. Play.Listen.,” Haimovitz dug in for a rousing rendition of “Empty Room,” by indie rockers Arcade Fire, literally rocking from side to side in his chair. The duo also offered the dark, melancholy “The Orchard” by Philip Glass, which was one of the most intriguing, enticing performances of the night.
All three cellists and pianist O’Riley teamed up for a meditative, solemn reading of “Requiem, Opus 66″ by David Popper. But they weren’t done yet. No, for the evening’s finale two more cellists – Leana Rutt and Bryan Holt, both from the Montreal-based all-cello ensemble Uccello – joined in for a stunning five-cello onslaught on fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s prog-rock-jazz-meets-country-twang classic “Open Country Joy.”
After that head-spinner there was simply no where else to go but home … dizzy, delighted and all-celloed out.
“From the Top”
Featuring host-pianist Christopher O’Riley, Miriam Liske-Doorandish, Taeguk Mun
With special guests Matt Haimovitz and members of Uccello
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Second St., Troy
Length: 90 minutes
Musical highlights: The O’Riley/Haimovitz rendition of “The Orchard,” Taeguk Mun’s blistering attack on Rostropovich’s “Humoresque, Opus 5″
The crowd: The theater was a little more than half-full, with lots of youngsters in the seats.
Listen: The episode of “From the Top” is schedule to be broadcast locally on radio station Classical WMHT (89.1 & 88.7-FM) at 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 8.
by: Greg Haymes
Read more: Times Union