Christopher O'Riley | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Christopher O'Riley 

Christopher O'Riley

Pianist Christopher O'Riley, a Chicago native in his mid-40s, was a rocker in junior high and then a jazz keyboardist before settling on the classical repertoire. He began playing when he was four, but all along he resisted the prodigy's usual pressure-cooker career. He collected a top prize at the 1981 Van Cliburn competition--classical piano's seal of approval--but didn't come into his own until the early 90s, when he got a grant to play with various groups at Lincoln Center. Since then he has soloed with top orchestras in standard works, yet his taste remains eclectic. He has accompanied flutist James Galway--the last time he visited Orchestra Hall was as Galway's pianist in '94--and has partnered with New York Philharmonic cello principal Carter Brey in a series of recitals that included tango and Peter Schickele pieces. And he's given premieres of contemporary works, including an etude homage to Jerry Lee Lewis by Aaron Jay Kernis and a concertino titled Le tombeau de Liberace by Michael Daugherty. For this week's Ravinia program he'll tackle a Tchaikovsky warhorse, the First Piano Concerto. Regardless of what he plays, O'Riley reveals an outstanding dexterity, a ready grasp of idiom, and a refreshing sense of play. Also on the program are Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and Rodeo; Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture will herald the Labor Day fireworks in the park. Popmeister Erich Kunzel, returning to Ravinia for his 23rd consecutive summer, will conduct. Monday, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Henry Fair.

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