American pianist and radio host Christopher O'Riley has attracted considerable attention for his classical-styled interpretations of music by Radiohead and other rock performers. At the time of these performances, originally released in 1993 and 1994, he was little known. If one expects an unusual orientation toward the pop elements in George Gershwin's evergreen Rhapsody in Blue from O'Riley, one will be disappointed. This recording doesn't provide the "rarely heard abandon" promised in the back cover blurb and on every other volume in the Royal Philharmonic Masterworks' "Audiophile Collection," and the audiophile designation is likewise questionable. It still serves as a reasonable budget choice for the Rhapsody in Blue, along with the tone poem An American in Paris and a trio of French Impressionist masterworks. Give the budget-line issuer Sheridan Square credit: this is one of the few mass-market releases that includes Ravel's Bólero, but does not give it top billing. In that work and in An American in Paris, especially, some listeners may want a bit more rhythmic verve, but these are quintessentially British performances (despite the American pianist) with orchestral precision and carefully controlled readings from conductor Barry Wordsworth that are especially absorbing in Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte and Debussy's Prélude à l'aprés-midi du'un faune. The booklet is a weak point, almost completely failing to address the music actually heard on the album.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim