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Review: Ensemble presents Shuffle.Play.Listen

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Cellist Matt Haimovitz (left) and pianist Christopher O'Riley.
  • Cellist Matt Haimovitz (left) and pianist Christopher O'Riley.

Covering wide swaths of musical genres in one concert program - and doing so successfully - is becoming more commonplace as we move further into the 21st century. The Ensemble Music Series, in planning to do one of these crossover concerts in each of its future, five-concert seasons, is certainly in tune to the trend. On Thursday, Ensemble hosted the duo of pianist Christopher O'Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz in the Tobias Theatre. The two are top-flight musicians in whatever they tackle; in this case, they largely played selections from their new album, Shuffle.Play.Listen, a pop-classical collection inspired by iPod-shaped listening habits.

Haimovitz's cello resonated to the back seats of the Toby - where I was - suggesting that, from its mid-bass registers on down, it had a bit of electronic help. Yet, O'Riley maintained good balance with his partner, giving us rich, luscious timbres throughout. In this nearly two and a half-hour program, we heard pieces from such disparate sources as Stravinsky, Martinu, Wagner and Webern to Radiohead, Cocteau Twins, Blonde Redhead, Arcade Fire and John McLaughlin. We also heard two excerpts from Bernard Herrmann's score to Hitchcock's Vertigo, one in each of the two sets.

In the first set, Haimovitz opened with John Corigliano's "Fancy on a Bach Air" for cello solo. Correspondingly O'Riley gave us in the second set Wagner's "Prelude and Liebestod" from Tristan and Isolde, a piano transcription cobbled together from work by Liszt, Miaskovsky and O'Riley himself. The remainder of the 17 offerings featured both instruments together. Following a complete standing ovation, the duo offered as an encore Astor Piazzolla's jazzy "Le grand tango," which he actually wrote for cello and piano. Feb. 16 at The Toby.

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