New Release: “Troika,” Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley

Political dissent and the “Slavic soul” are at the heart of TROIKA, a new two-disc album by cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley on the Pentatone label.

The recording features sonatas by three great twentieth century Russian composers: Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov. Interspersed between this “troika” are shorter pieces, including the duo’s arrangement of the Troika movement from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé score and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. The later was a new piece for Haimovitz. In studying the work, O’Riley advised him to listen to performances by Russian singers rather than recordings by fellow cellists. The result is a fresh and singing approach.

Throughout their discography, Haimovitz and O’Riley have demonstrated an adventurous streak, which includes covers of Radiohead songs. On this newest album, they venture into the rebellious political overtones of Russian punk rock.

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40 in 1934, just prior to the censure of his music by Soviet authorities following performances of the opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Here is the first movement. The beautiful second theme may remind you of the of the lushly romantic themes of earlier Russian composers. But the second phrase of this theme contains a few poignant harmonic surprises (2:36, for example) that seem to turn the music into a nostalgic and lamenting backward glance. Then, our expectations are shattered by a sudden, dark turn at the recapitulation. Storm clouds always seem to be lurking beneath the surface in Shostakovich’s music.

Recordings

  • TROIKA: Matt Haimovitz, cello, Christopher O’Riley, piano Amazon
  • Haimovitz and O’Riley talk about the album in this interview with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg.

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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