Classical music project comes to Penn State Altoona

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State is partnering with the Penn State Altoona Division of Arts and Humanities to present free public programs Wednesday, Jan. 16, featuring Christopher O’Riley, concert pianist and host of NPR’s From the Top, and Matt Haimovitz, Grammy-nominated cellist.

The classically trained musicians are celebrated internationally not only for their virtuosity but also for their boundary-breaking efforts to embrace various musical traditions, including rock, jazz, and pop, in concerts and recordings.

In “An Afternoon with Bach,” Haimovitz performs and discusses Johann Sebastian Bach cello suites at 2 p.m. in the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts. Timothy Melbinger, lecturer in music at Penn State Altoona, provides context. Refreshments will be served. A musical surprise awaits those who stop by the Port Sky Café at 4 p.m.

“An Evening with Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley” rounds out the day at 7:30 p.m. in the Paul R. and Margery Wolf Kuhn Theatre of the Misciagna Center. The musicians perform a variety of classical and popular music selections. Each discusses the importance of the works and their contemporary interpretations. Melbinger hosts the event, which includes a question-and-answer session. A reception follows in the Titelman Study.

Free tickets, required for the evening musical event, are available at the Misciagna Box Office, Monday–Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or at the door. Free parking is available after 3 p.m. in the Misciagna lot. For more information, phone the box office at 814-949-5452 or visit www.altoona.psu.edu.

The programs are part of the Center for the Performing Arts Classical Music Project. The three-year project, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides opportunities to engage students, faculty and the community with classical music artists and programs. Brentano String Quartet visited Penn State Altoona in March 2012 as part of the project’s first year. Learn more about the project at cmp.psu.edu.

O’Riley is known for his sublime interpretations of the classical canon and groundbreaking transcriptions of Radiohead, Elliott Smith, and Nick Drake.

"True Love Waits," O’Riley’s first album of Radiohead transcriptions, garnered a four-star review from Rolling Stone. The pianist followed up with "Hold Me to This: Christopher O’Riley Plays the Music of Radiohead.: "Home to Oblivion: An Elliott Smith Tribute," which interpreted the complex and emotional music of a troubled singer-songwriter, won praise from both pop and classical music reviewers. "Second Grace—The Music of Nick Drake," O’Riley’s fourth collection of popular song transcriptions, highlights the mysterious repertoire of the late British guitar ace and songwriter.

O’Riley, who has toured with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, has performed with the philharmonic orchestras of New York City, Los Angeles, Moscow and London (Royal Philharmonic), plus the symphony orchestras of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore and San Francisco. Haimovitz made his debut in 1984, at age 13, as a soloist with the Israel Philharmonic. At 17, he recorded his debut album with the Chicago Symphony. His "Meeting of the Spirits" earned a Grammy nomination for best classical crossover album and won a Grammy for best producer of the year (classical).

The cellist, who has included rock selections on his recordings, goes out of his way to perform in settings not typically associated with classical music. So in addition to taking up the bow at renowned concert halls and festivals, often as a solo recitalist, Haimovitz has played in clubs and coffee houses. He was the first classical musician to appear at New York City’s infamous CBGB club, a performance that was videotaped for ABC’s "Nightline UpClose."

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Last Updated January 08, 2013