Shuffle.Play.Listen: a Revelation at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
I never dreamed I would hear a concert at the Performing Arts Center that would juxtapose Hitchcock movie scores, good jazz fusion, esoteric avant garde classical compositions and the sounds of 21st Century indie pop. Not only did the program mix such disparate elements there was much more and all done with great musical skill and even touches of wry humor. The choices were iconoclastic and the pairing of the cello and piano were so marvelously mastered by Christopher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz that one tended to forget the wildly different wellsprings and just focus on the notes as they flew from the stage in seemingly every form known to the human ear. O’Riley may be best known as radio host for the excellent “From the Top” that focuses on young classical musicians but his mastery of the piano coupled with an encyclopedic knowledge of musical composition makes him a perfect role model and a very polished performer.
On this night in the big hall, Matt Haimovitz played so powerfully it was fortunate that O’Reilly is so gifted on his own instrument or he could have been overwhelmed. Instead the two men raised each other to heights needed to accomplish such an action packed program. Much of the credit must go the thoughtful arrangements that gave both players a distinct place in this heady musical stew. The evening began with the demanding theme from the film “the Red Violin” by John Corigliano translated into a solo cello piece, followed by the haunting prelude to the film Vertigo by the great film composer Bernard Herrmann and punctuated by “Pyramid Song” from contemporary group Radiohead. It just made you think of the old Monty Python theme “and now for something completely different.” Such odd mixes continued with great effect as O’Reilly and Haimovitz drew musical water from four separate wells. There were the modern classical pieces; brisk and lyrical dances by Stravinsky, sweet fairy tales in song by Janacek, a decidedly rambunctious, folk inspired Slovakian theme from Martinu and Opus 11 by Webern, stark and full of dissonant jagged edges.
Some in the audience may have come just to hear the playing of songs by their favorite contemporary pop groups and they were treated to amazing translations of Blond Redhead (Misery is a Butterfly), more Radiohead (Arpeggi), a rocking “Empty Room” and “In the Backseat” by Arcade Fire and the Cocteau Twins “Fotzepolitic” which was made to sing with the harmony of cello and piano. While rock sometimes does not translate at all in the concert hall these two artists seem to understand the genre and play it serious cool for all concerned. There was more, and different even from Webern and Arcade Fire. Jon Hassell’s “Last Night the Moon Came and Dropped Its Clothes on the Street” was a highlight but the finishing trio of Shuffle.Play.Listen’s expansive and grand “Scene d’amour” from Vertigo, jazz guitarist John McLaughlin’s “Dance of the Maya” with its luscious thick slices of cello-tones and an encore of Astor Piazzolla’s “Le Grand Tango” just let out all of the stops.