Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?
My mother taught me to read prior to kindergarten. The nuns at St. Athanasius considered this a problem, as i would be bored and get into trouble. they offered piano or French lessons at $15 a week as an ultimatum. I remember my first piano lesson, and reading music made immediate sense; a connection was made and i never looked back.
Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?
I most admire some of the greats from the past: Rachmaninoff, Schnabel, Gould. i am also inspired by string instruments in their capacity for true expression. with that in mind, i presently gain most inspiration from the kids who play on From the Top, and my colleague, Matt Haimovitz.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Dealing with adverse reactions to my crossing genre lines in my choice of repertoire, mostly from Neanderthals of the Classical music industry.
What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble?
Knowing when to lead and when to follow, reacting and interacting in the moment.
Which recordings are you most proud of?
My upcoming Liszt recording of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique and other Liszt arrangements; my Stravinsky record; both of my Radiohead CDs.
Do you have a favourite concert venue?
Hard to choose, but Mechanics Hall in Worcester is a great recording venue, ditto the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Upper Manhattan; Meyerson Hall in Dallas.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Nicolaus Harnoncourt, Jordi Savall, Sir James Galway, Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Matt Haimovitz
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Listening: my teacher, Russell Sherman in numerous recitals
Performing: collaborating with Matt, Sir James
What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?
Rachmaninoff and Ravel are two favourites to perform, also Shostakovich.
I listen to The Bad Plus, Bill Evans, Elliott Smith
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians/students?
That one’s own creation of the present moment in music is most important, not submitting to some foregone conclusion as to what’s appropriate.
What are you working on at the moment?
Goldberg Variations, Rachmaninoff Concerto #1
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Spending all day with my cats
What is your most treasured possession?
Elliott, my Tonkinese cat
What do you enjoy doing most?
Christopher O’Riley is an American classical pianist and public radio show host. He is the host of the weekly National Public Radio program From the Top. O’Riley is also known for his piano arrangements of songs by alternative artists, including alternative rock band Radiohead.
Christopher O’Riley studied with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music. Christopher O’Riley splits his time between Los Angeles and rural Ohio. His radio and tv show can be found on-line at www.fromthetop.org. His personal website (including a full biography) is at www.christopheroriley.com.