Matt Haimovitz & Christopher O'Riley
Cellist Matt Haimovitz & Pianist Christopher O'Riley
A Boldly Imaginative Double-Album
That Blurs the Boundaries
Dividing Classical and Pop
Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley have made one of year's true event recordings with Shuffle.Play.Listen, which blurs the often artificial, outmoded boundaries that divide classical and popular music. Released by Oxingale Records as a double-album CD set, Shuffle.Play.Listen sees the groundbreaking, Grammy-nominated Haimovitz team with O'Riley (host of the popular NPR and PBS weekly program "From the Top") to juxtapose 20th-century classics by Stravinsky, Janacek, Martinu, Piazzolla and Bernard Hermann with versions of art-rock songs by the likes of Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Cocteau Twins, and the jazz-rock of John McLaughlin, in boldly imaginative cello-piano arrangements by O'Riley.
Prior to its physical CD release, Shuffle.Play.Listen will be available exclusively via Amazon's MP3 site on Sept. 1, with the full digital album offered at a reduced price and a free track offered for preview - the Prelude from Hermann's Vertigo suite.
Along with being classical virtuosos of the highest order, whether playing the standard repertoire or contemporary works, both Haimovitz and O'Riley have shown intrepid flair for finding kindred spirits in the rock world - Haimovitz with his blazing versions of classic-rock tracks by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, and O'Riley with a series of albums featuring his subtle solo-piano arrangements of songs by Radiohead, Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. The CD package of Shuffle.Play.Listen includes an extensive interview of Haimovitz and O'Riley on the making of the album by New York Times best-selling author Dan Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music).
In discussing the duo's expansive concept, Haimovitz told Levitin: "In concert, we go between Stravinsky and Radiohead, and then John McLaughlin and then some Bach and Ravel. It's part of the same trajectory for us, and it fits seamlessly in a program. For me, a classical listener will be interested in Radiohead or any of the tunes we're playing on the pop side. I think what we're doing has a sincerity to it. We're getting to the spirit of this music, while translating it in a very different way than the original. I think they would appreciate that there are some complex things going on contrapuntally, harmonically and lyrically. There's a richness there."
O'Riley adds: "My only criteria for working on any kind of arrangement, whether it's solo piano, or with cello and it was more inspiring to have Matt to work with, so I was drawn to bands that have really interesting and idiosyncratic vocal technique but the two main characteristics that I really go for when I'm making an arrangement are texture and harmony... The complexity of the voices, and being able to transcribe that to a duo setting, but also a chord that just gets under your skin. That really is
what gets me."
Disc 1 of Shuffle.Play.Listen features Stravinsky's Suite Itallienne, Janecek's Fairy Tale, Martinu's Variations on a Slovak Folksong and Astor Piazzolla's Le Grand Tango, pieces of melodic and rhythmic delight all interwoven with O'Riley's arresting new arrangement of Herrmann's deeply lyrical, almost Wagnerian score
to the film Vertigo, an inclusion that celebrates the composer's 100 birthday
Disc 2 kicks off with "Empty Room" from Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, the Canadian band's 2011 Grammy-winning Album of the Year. Songs by contemporary art-rock icons Radiohead ("Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," "Pyramid Song") follow, along with '80s alternative classics by the Cocteau Twins and numbers by supergroup A Perfect Circle and New York trio Blonde Redhead. The duo showcases its lyricism, inventiveness and sense of drama in these songs without words, while the album's most jaw-dropping playing sees Haimovitz and O'Riley interpret pieces made famous by guitarist John McLaughlin's pioneering jazz-rock band the Mahavishnu Orchestra: "The Dance of Maya" and the nine-minute "Lotus on an Irish Spring."
Referencing not only the pop material but the fact that music in Stravinsky's Suite Italliene came from his neo-Baroque ballet Pulcinella and Hermann's Vertigo score was for the film by Alfred Hitchcock, Haimovitz says: "I think what unites all of this music in some sense is a lot of it originates from somewhere else - ballet, cinema, song. We're playing the more abstract essence of these pieces."
With the Haimovitz and O'Riley duo one of the most anticipated collaborations of the 2011-12 season, the pair will tour extensively to play major concert series and university residencies across the U.S. Each musician will also tour separately as a solo artist in recital and as concerto soloist. Haimovitz's 2012 schedule includes the U.S. premiere of Philip Glass's Cello Concerto No. 2 "Naqoyqatsi" with the Cincinnati Symphony and Dennis Russell Davies (March 30-31). A Scotsman review of Haimovitz's world premiere of the Glass concerto in mid-August at the Edinburgh Festival described the cellist's performance as "stunning."