Notes and Editorial Reviews
Acclaimed for their adventurous and wide-ranging recording projects – from Beethoven Sonatas on period instruments to genre-bending arrangements of Radiohead and Arcade Fire – the endlessly inventive duo of cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley returns to explore music of the Slavic soul. Anchored by the cello sonatas of the iconic triumvirate of Russian composers –Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich – and inspired by the subversive irony of Shostakovich’s Sonata, TROIKA also delves into more recently-written, unexpected, and popular works. Whether subtle or blatantly rebellious, each work potently reveals the strength of the artistic voice in the face of political repression in mother Russia.
Haimovitz and O’Riley really go to town—specifically, Moscow. The ‘Troika’ of their stylishly presented double-disc set comprises the three cello sonatas by Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev, as well as a dizzying transcription of the eponymous lollipop from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé—one of a series of spectacular virtuoso transcriptions that range from Shostakovich’s now ubiquitous Waltz No 2 to explosive versions of songs by Pussy Riot and The Beatles (‘Back in the USSR’, naturally).
Apparently there’s a political thesis behind these choices, but what really speaks is Haimovitz and O’Riley’s playing in the three sonatas. These are emotionally charged readings on the grandest scale. Haimovitz in particular plays with an articulate, vibrato-rich tone that he can refine down to an almost viola-like mellowness in, say, the Andante of the Rachmaninov, or send soaring and swooping (no shortage of portamento here) round O’Riley’s mountains of piano sound.