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NPR: Christopher O'Riley
From his groundbreaking transcriptions of Radiohead to his unforgettable interpretations of classic and new repertoire, pianist Christopher O'Riley has redefined the possibilities of classical music.
As host of 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 pretension, that these young artists are no different than any other child. In 2007, his successful run as host of From the Top was marked by the debut of the PBS television series From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall.
An interpreter and arranger of some of the most important contemporary rock music of our time, O'Riley lives by the Duke Ellington adage, "there are only two kinds of music, good music and bad." His first recording of Radiohead transcriptions, True Love Waits (Sony/Odyssey) was as critically acclaimed as it was commercially successful. His second set entitled Hold Me to This: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead, was released on World Village/Harmonia Mundi in the Spring of 2005. In 2006, he released his third set of transcriptions Home to Oblivion; An Elliott Smith Tribute. His most recent CD, Second Grace: Music of Nick Drake, interprets the work of singer/songwriter Nick Drake.
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 toured the U.S. with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Orchestra playing Bach, Mozart and Lizst concerti, and has recently appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony.
O'Riley has developed programs with fellow pianists: Heard Fresh: Music for Two Pianos, with the jazz pianist Fred Hersch; and Los Tangueros, with Argentine pianist Pablo Ziegler, a program of two-piano arrangements of Astor Piazzolla's classic tangos. Next season he will play a series of recitals that intertwine his own piano transcriptions with classical compositions. These will debut at Columbia University's Miller Theatre and feature Claude Debussy/Nick Drake; Robert Schumann/Elliott Smith and Dimitri Shostakovich/Radiohead.
O'Riley studied with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music, and splits his time between Los Angeles and Ohio.