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Music review: Haimovitz and O'Riley in 'Shuffle. Play. Listen'

January 19, 2012 |  2:40 pm

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Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley have invented a format aimed directly at anyone who has fiddled with an iPod. They call it “Shuffle. Play. Listen.” -– and the idea behind it is to blast away at any and all categories.  

Last fall, the pair released a  two-CD album of that name. On one disc excerpts from Bernard Herrmann’s score for “Vertigo” weave in between classical pieces. O'Riley’s ongoing series of classical arrangements of rock and jazz/rock material fill the other. To a lot of folks’ surprise, the concept worked. With everything distilled to the timbres of a cello and a piano, idioms do tend to melt away. 

So now inevitably there is a “Shuffle. Play. Listen.” tour, which came to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday night with Haimovitz and O'Riley tinkering some more with a format that can probably withstand endless tweaking.  

As an iPod user would, they deleted selections from the album and inserted new ones –- like a hot-off-the-press, richly melodic "Fantasy on a Bach Air" for solo cello by John Corigliano. Mimicking iTunes’ practice of treating classical works as “songs,” Webern’s Little Pieces for Cello and Piano, Opus 11, Janácek’s “Fairy Tale” and excerpts from Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne” were broken up into their component parts and scattered throughout the program.

O’Riley’s treatment of tunes by Arcade Fire, Radiohead and the Cocteau Twins were remarkably faithful to the structures -– if not the idioms –- of the original recordings, and he pressed hard on the pedal to simulate murky studio ambience. While some arrangements blurred innocuously from one to the next, the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “The Dance of Maya” stood out -– revealed as angular, dissonant, boogie-ing, downright avant-garde. Haimovitz used amplification on and off; his already luscious tone blew up to elephantine proportions when the juice was on.

High-tech footnote: O'Riley read his music from a tablet computer, making Haimovitz’s shuffles through score paper look rather 20th century.

RELATED:

Influences: Pianist (and NPR host) Christopher O'Riley

More classical music reviews from the Los Angeles Times

 -– Richard S. Ginell

Photo: Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley. Credit: Sarah Scott
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