NPR: Performance Today -- Live in Studio 4A -- Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead

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Live in Studio 4A
Our showcase for artists invited to perform on the program and talk about their music
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Our list of 50 essential classical CDs
Piano Puzzlers
Bruce Adolphe's "name that composer" piano quiz

Live in Studio 4A: Christopher O'Riley
Christopher O'Riley Pianist Christopher O'Riley (left) took up a unique challenge: transcribing rock music and transforming it into classical arrangements for solo piano. The host of public radio program From the Top joined our host Fred Child in 4A to talk about and perform his work. (May 2002)
Listen to the entire hour O'Riley Bio
Browse selected audio excerpts Related links
View the first page of Chris' "Black Star" manuscript View a photo gallery of the performance

True Love Waits: O'Riley Plays Radiohead True Love Waits: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead
Sony Classical SK 87321 (June 2003)
Christopher O'Riley's new CD features 15 of his Radiohead piano transcriptions.
Purchase this CD

A Note from Former PT Producer Mark Mobley
Since the day Chuck Berry first told Beethoven to roll over, classical music and rock have had an on-again, off-again relationship. The music and musicians can seem so far apart -- a gap demonstrated by such painful examples of temporary insanity as "Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Play the Beatles," and "The Immortal Songs of Bob Dylan," as interpreted by the Gotham String Quartet.

Christopher O'Riley's Radiohead transcriptions are in another league, that small category of crossover that actually works. Radiohead's music, created collaboratively by its five members, is verging on classical music to begin with. The music uses various unlikely time signatures and quirky electronic instruments. And the production is impeccable; there's hardly a note out of place.

Chris is a formidable pianist with equally wide-ranging tastes, as he demonstrates in his concert appearances and on his own radio show, "From the Top." He's also an obsessive Radiohead fan who manages to do what the best arrangers do. He finds qualities in the original songs that will translate to the new medium. These solo-piano versions of the songs aren't Muzak or spacey noodling. Listen to Chris's reharmonizations in "Everything in its Right Place," and in George Harrison's "Blue Jay Way," and you'll see what I mean. During his visit to Studio 4A, Chris chatted with PT host Fred Child and recorded an hour of Performance Today. We've got the whole program here.

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O'Riley's Radiohead Transcriptions

Christopher O'Riley
More Music

Shostakovich: Prelude & Fugue in A-flat Op. 87 No. 17

George Harrison/Arr. O'Riley: "Within You Without You / Blue Jay Way"

Nick Drake/Arr. O'Riley: "Place to Be"

O'Riley Speaks

Chris explains how he incorporates non-classical sounds into solo piano

Fred and Chris reflect on Radiohead's music; Chris introduces his favorite Radiohead song "True Love Waits"

Chris talks about his transcriptions

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Christopher O'Riley, piano
An artist whose poetic gifts and captivating virtuosity have made him one of the most important and versatile pianists performing before the public today, Christopher O'Riley enjoys a thriving concert career. His singularly broad repertoire ranges from music of the English Renaissance and French Baroque periods to the new works of today's leading composers to such non-classical forms as the tango. He also plays many of his own arrangements and transcriptions. His performing schedule regularly takes him to major cities throughout American and has been highlighted by frequent engagements at both Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. Internationally, he has appeared in cultural capitals worldwide from London, Paris and Vienna to Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia.

Recognition of his talent has been widespread. His honors include top prizes at the Van Cliburn, Leeds, Busoni and Montreal competitions, as well as an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Prize. As an emerging young pianist, he enjoyed the sponsorship of Young Concert Artists, the Xerox/Affiliate Artists Program and the Pro Musicis Foundation.

Mr. O'Riley's recordings also reflect the originality of his programming. Among his highly acclaimed solo releases are a Scriabin disc for Image Recordings and an all-Stravinsky disc on Elektra Nonesuch, featuring "Three Movements from Petrouchka" and Mr. O'Riley's own transcriptions of "Apollo" and "Histoire du Soldat." He is also heard on a recent RCA Victor Red Seal release of French repertoire for flute and piano with James Galway. His discography is further highlighted by a Busoni album (including the rarely-heard "Fantasia Contrappuntistica") a disc of Ravel's solo works, a recording of Beethoven Piano Sonatas, a collaboration with cellist Carter Brey entitled "Le Grand Tango" and the premiere recording of "The Short-Tempered Clavier" by the fabled composer P.D.Q. Bach.

Even as he explores new stylistic territory, Mr. O'Riley remains in demand for his unique interpretations of the standard piano literature. He is a favorite guest with the foremost orchestras in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Kansas City, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, among others. He was also the featured soloist with the Ulster Orchestra on its first American tour in 1992. The illustrious group of conductors with whom he has collaborated includes David Zinman, Leonard Slatkin, John Williams, Neeme Järvi, Edo de Waart, Yoel Levi, Hugh Wolff and Andrew Litton.

In addition to his regular touring, Mr. O'Riley has recently undertaken several new projects. He has established "Los Tangueros," a partnership with Argentine pianist Pablo Ziegler that has been touring over the last two seasons with a program of two-piano arrangements of Astor Piazzolla's classic tangos. In the spring of 1999 he began a collaboration with choreographer and director Martha Clarke, who has staged several stories of Anton Chekhov set to the piano works of Alexander Scriabin, performed live on stage by Mr. O'Riley. This production, titled "Vers le Flamme," is touring Europe and the United States, and is being presented by many leading performing arts centers and venues, including Jacob's Pillow, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Krannert Center (Champagne/Urbana) and the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor. Mr. O'Riley is also the host of a nationally distributed radio program for Public Radio International, "From the Top," which showcases the vibrant performances and personalities of young musicians.

An enthusiastic advocate of new music, Mr. O'Riley has twice participated in the annual "Absolut Concerto" concerts at Avery Fisher Hall, premiering works of Richard Danielpour and Michael Torke. In 1999-2000 he performed Michael Daugherty's "Le Tombeau de Liberace" with the Detroit Symphony and with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, both in St. Paul and on tour. He has also recently given premieres of works by Aaron Jay Kernis, including his piano quartet, "Still Movement with Hymn," (also recorded for Decca's Argo label) and the Superstar Etude No. 1, inspired by the pianism of Jerry Lee Lewis. Mr. O'Riley's other recordings include an Albany release of pieces by John Adams, Robert Helps, Todd Brief and Roger Sessions, and a disc of solo and chamber works by Danielpour for Koch International.

Christopher O'Riley is the recipient of an Artist's Diploma from the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Russell Sherman.

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