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Shuffle. Play. Listen

Matt Haimovitz & Christopher O'Riley

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Album Review

Cellist Matt Haimovitz has included arrangements of rock songs on his recordings and made modest-sized headlines by scheduling classical concerts in bars and clubs. Pianist Christopher O'Riley has arranged rock songs for classical piano and played those arrangements in live and radio performances, even claiming that after playing music by Radiohead he had received e-mail asking "Who is this Mr. Head and where can I find more of his beautiful music?" Thus a collaboration between these artists was logical. In the interview-format booklet for this release, they discuss breaking down the boundaries between classical and rock listeners, pointing out that juxtaposing the two genres is often all it takes to get some listeners to make the jump. Shuffle.Play.Listen consists of two CDs, the first containing classical compositions and the second including rock pieces. You could indeed hit the shuffle function on a CD or .mp3 player and get a mix of the two genres, but that doesn't seem to be exactly what Haimovitz and O'Riley have in mind here. On disc 1, the track sequence has a planned order, with O'Riley's arrangement of Bernard Herrmann's Vertigo Suite (from his soundtrack to the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo) distributed in alternation with works by Janácek, Martinu, Stravinsky, and Piazzolla (in previously existing arrangements, not O'Riley's). The thinking isn't entirely clear, but on the other hand it may be that Haimovitz and O'Riley have accomplished even more than they set out to do. Generally speaking, rock is regarded as a decisive split from the tradition of classical music in the larger picture of musical history, but there is a minority view that holds that rock musicians are "Romantics" whose outlooks are firmly rooted in 19th century ideas of the transcendence of individual sense and imagination. This release provides support for that view. The boundaries between rock and classical are erased here not just by juxtaposition but by cognizance of interpenetration. The first disc consists of pieces with folk or popular influences already, and the second disc, with pieces by Radiohead, Arcade Fire, the Cocteau Twins, Blonde Redhead, and jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, includes music that is either directly or indirectly influenced by classical models of complexity. It is hard to think that the members of Radiohead, especially, haven't heard a good deal of classical music, and in the future it may be that these players, or those who follow them, will find a way to "shuffle" Radiohead and Martinu together so that buyers can just "play and listen." A stimulating step forward in many ways. ~James Manheim, Rovi

Customer Reviews


Couldn't disagree more with Boolez who, as of right now, has written over 900 customer reviews. (Crazy.) Good music is always "hip and relevant," and there's nothing kitschy about what O'Riley and Haimovitz accomplish on this recording. On the contrary, the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate music from artists like Arcade Fire, Cocteau Twins, and Thom Yorke and company, with Stravinsky and other great composers makes clearly evident the common threads running through all great art. Christopher O'Riley is an outstanding composer and arranger, and this album is no cheap collection of soulless "classicalized" versions of popular rock pieces (see Vitamin Strings Quartet). O'Riley's work arranging numbers from Radiohead is mind-blowing. I was fortunate enough to see him play live with Haimovitz, and just about came out of my front row seat when I heard him launch into pieces from various 4AD artists. Buy this album, and then pick up "True Love Waits." (And then see these two in concert, and just try and sit still!)

Soulful playing

Soulful playing by both Matt and Chris - highly recommended!!

Rinse, wash, repeat

Haimovitz and O'Riley are great players, but this is not the '90s anymore. No one thinks that coupling Stravinsky with Arcade Fire is hip or relevant anymore. This is the same old thing that the Kronos did years ago but with less effect. Grab the first half of the program that has the real music and leave the pop stuff behind. -Bz


Born: 1970 in Israel

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Born in Israel in 1970, cellist Matt Haimovitz came to prominence as a teenager, beginning his studies at Juilliard in 1983 and playing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985. He first played with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 16, and by 17 he had secured a record deal with classical music giant Deutsche Grammophon. His first release for the label, 1989's Lalo and Saint-Saens Cello Concertos, was followed by albums of cello work by composers such as Bach, Boccherini, and Haydn,...
Full Bio
Shuffle. Play. Listen, Matt Haimovitz
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  • $19.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Sep 27, 2011

Customer Ratings