Technology really influences how we listen to music, we thought during Christopher O'Riley's performance at Yoshi's SF on Wednesday night, for the Artist Sessions hosted by Lara Downes. At the core of his program was a transcription by Liszt of Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique for solo piano. An effort Liszt undertook because when you live in the middle of the 19th century and want to hear some Berlioz, you couldn't just download it from itune. You had to have an orchestra play it for you, and as O'Riley mentioned in some fun and erudite stage banter, the Symphonie Fantastique required an orchestra twice the size as of any Beethoven symphony, only three years after Ludwig's death. Short of having hundred musicians and giant bells in your dining room, you had to play a transcription of it yourself on your upright.
Now that fancy technology allows us to listen to symphonies at home in full orchestral glory, the piano transcriptions have fell out of fashion. O'Riley's performance was a reminder of how pleasant they can be, and how they illuminate the orchestral works with a different viewpoint. While playing a now obsolete musical form, O'Riley read the score from an ipad, turning pages with a foot pedal. As technical progress outmoded the job of transcribing orchestral music into piano reductions, it will kill that of page turner.