Cellist Matt Haimovitz & Pianist Christopher O'Riley Release Shuffle.Play.Listen – Blurs the Boundaries Dividing Classical and Pop – on Sep 27

Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley have made one of the year's true event recordings with Shuffle.Play.Listen, which blurs the often artificial, outmoded boundaries that divide classical and popular music. The double-album CD set will be released Sept. 27 by Oxingale Records, teaming the groundbreaking, Grammy-nominated Haimovitz with O'Riley (host of the popular NPR and PBS weekly program "From the Top"). Shuffle.Play.Listen juxtaposes 20th-century classics by Stravinsky, Janácek, Martinu, Piazzolla and Bernard Hermann with art-rock songs – by the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire – and the jazz-rock of John McLaughlin in boldly imaginative cello-piano arrangements by O'Riley.

Whether playing the standard repertoire or contemporary works, both Haimovitz and O'Riley – in addition to being classical virtuosos of the highest order – 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 with 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 says he was inspired by the lyrical possibilities of Matt Haimovitz’s cello: “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."


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