Christopher O’RileyOn Our Show: March 23, 2013
Birth Year: 1956
Origin: Chicago, IL
About Christopher O’Riley:
Born in Chicago and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Christopher O’Riley grew up with an interest in music and went on to study with acclaimed pianist Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music.
As a prestigious artist, pianist and national media personality, O’Riley has dazzled the world over on stage, the radio and his records. His interpretations of music from the traditional and popular repertoire make him a cherished bridge between musical tastes, genres and audience worldwide.
His repertoire spans classical styles from Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and Busoni to contemporary artists such as Radiohead, Nirvana, Pink Floyd and Elliott Smith. From his groundbreaking transcriptions of Radiohead to his powerful interpretations of repertoire classic and contemporary, pianist Christopher O’Riley has redefined the possibilities of classical music. He has taken his unique vision to both traditional classical music venues and symphonic settings, as well as to entirely new audiences on the radio, at universities and even clubs. As host of the most popular classical music radio show on the air today, National Public Radio’s “From the Top,” O’Riley works and performs with the next generation of brilliant young musicians, demonstrating to audiences, with humor and a lack of pretense, that these young artists are as characterful and diverse in their personal lives as they are in their music-making.
He has recorded transcriptions of Radiohead’s albums for ”True Love Waits” and “Hold Me to This: Christopher O’Riley plays the music of Radiohead.” For “Home to Oblivion; An Elliott Smith Tribute,” O’Riley tackled the deeply emotional and complex work from the troubled singer/songwriter who died prematurely in 2003. “Second Grace: The Music of Nick Drake,” is a disc of transcriptions of the music by the British folk singer.
Just as his radio show and his contemporary classical recordings have created extraordinary buzz, so have his performances in a traditional classical context. O’Riley has toured with the world-famous Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Orchestra, playing Bach, Mozart and Liszt concerti. He has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Minnesota Orchestra, the symphonies of Pittsburgh, Detroit, Colorado, Atlanta and Baltimore. The illustrious group of conductors with whom he has collaborated includes Marin Alsop, David Zinman, Leonard Slatkin, John Williams, Neeme Järvi, Bobby McFerrin, Hans Graf, Yoel Levi, Hugh Wolff and Andrew Litton.
He has flexed his diverse talents within individual programs concerts as well, showcasing his own arrangements of Radiohead, Nick Drake and Elliott Smith alongside Classical repertoire pieces from Shostakovich, Claude Debussy and Robert Schumann. He has also premiered works by Richard Danielpour, Michael Torke, Michael Daugherty and Aaron Jay Kernis.
O’Riley has been honored with many awards at the Leeds, Van Cliburn, Busoni and Montreal competitions, as well as an Avery Fisher Career Grant. He was also a finalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1981.
In addition to his own transcriptions, O’Riley has ventured into alternate territory on tour with other classical artists. He has developed programs with fellow pianists: “Heard Fresh: Music for Two Pianos,” with the jazz pianist Fred Hersch; and “Los Tangueros,” with the Argentinian pianist Pablo Ziegler, a program of two-piano arrangements that feature Astor Piazzolla’s classic tangos. In 1999 he collaborated with choreographer and director Martha Clarke, who staged several stories of Anton Chekhov set to the piano works of Alexander Scriabin, performed live on stage by O’Riley.