Oxingale Records and Pentatone Join Forces

December 16, 2014

OXINGALE RECORDS, the trailblazing artists’ label founded in 2000 by cellist Matt Haimovitz and composer Luna Pearl Woolf, is excited to announce that it is joining forces with PENTATONE, the classical music label renowned for its discerning artistic quality and superior audiophile technology. Beginning in 2015, new albums and reissues from Haimovitz and his musical collaborators will be available internationally – in SACD 5.1 surround sound and as high definition downloads – from the Amsterdam-based label under the PENTATONE OXINGALE series.

“15 years ago, Luna and I founded Oxingale to pave a way for us to share music that we are passionate about, with an audience that we believed was seeking meaning and musical adventure,” says Matt Haimovitz, continuing, “For us, classical music is a living, breathing art form. We started Oxingale to bring to life what has been in our minds and hearts, whether by composers working 300 years ago, newly inked works, or improvisations. The invitation to collaborate with PENTATONE is an affirmation. With our shared sense of artistic and sonic values, we look forward to bringing our vision and energy to a label which has shown an optimistic and uncompromising attitude in its contributions to culture and the future of classical music.”

“There was never any doubt for PENTATONE to join forces with OXINGALE Records,” says PENTATONE’s managing director, Dirk Jan Vink. “We believe the works of Oxingale artists bring a fantastic addition to our catalogue. With PENTATONE’s warm, dynamic and detailed sound capturing the superb works and performances of Oxingale’s artists, we look forward to bringing you a range of prestigious work in prime quality.”

The new collaboration launches on February 1, 2015 with the release of BEETHOVEN, Period., the complete collection of sonatas and variations for pianoforte and violoncello recorded on period instruments by Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley. Following later in the year are two more releases: Shuffle. Play. Listen, a groundbreaking recording, also with O’Riley, which saw Herrmann, Janacek and Stravinsky come together with Radiohead, the Cocteau Twins and John McLaughlin; and an all-Schubert album featuring the Arpeggione Sonata and the Cello Quintet. Also forthcoming is a 3-CD box set of Haimovitz’s solo cello recordings from the last 15 years, including 20 world premiere recordings and two newly released tracks: Orbit, by Philip Glass and a new arrangement of the Beatles’ Helter Skelter for solo cello by Woolf.

Founded in the year 2000, the Grammy Award-winning Oxingale Records is as committed to revelatory interpretations of the canonic repertoire as it is to riveting performances of works by recent and living composers. Under the new collaboration, Oxingale will continue to oversee its own A&R direction, while benefiting from the global distribution and marketing offered by PENTATONE.

Launched in 2010, Oxingale Music is the publishing arm of the label. Oxingale Music publishes the work of Luna Pearl Woolf plus a range of works by composers such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Lewis Spratlan and Rome Prize-winner David Sanford. The Oxingale Music catalog includes a substantial library of music written for and premiered by Matt Haimovitz, most of which are recorded on Oxingale and will be released over time as part of the PENTATONE Oxingale Series.

This year, Oxingale Music launched a semi-annual composition competition aimed at expanding and enriching the repertoire for cello in unusual combinations and ensembles. Over 40 composers from 18 countries entered the 2014 competition, the winners of which will have their works premiered in February 2015.

 

Slipped Disc: Ebola and black holes: My night in Atlanta

October 21, 2014

The cellist Matt Haimovitz has sent us his experiences playing with the locked-out musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. read and reflect. 

Hearing that I would be in town for a residency at Emory University, the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony reached out to me with the idea of an impromptu concert together. I have never before taken sides in a labor dispute, but my gut said, “Yes! In tumultuous times we need music more then ever, for the musicians, for the community, for music’s sake.”

Before confirming my participation, I polled some music industry folks whose expertise and opinions I respect. Nearly across the board I received stern warnings against participating in such a concert and “appearing to take sides” in the dispute. I was told “if you do this, you will never again be hired by a major symphony orchestra.”

I have never made life or artistic decisions based on that kind of consideration, so the warnings sounded hollow to me. … I do not profess to have any knowledge of the orchestra’s budget or deficit. Clearly there are issues to work out with the model. Will any symphony orchestra look the same 20 years from now? I doubt it, and I hope not. But I am a musician who is concerned about the priority and state of culture in our society today. If that debate were taking place, in good faith, with the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony, I would not have played. But it is not, and the decision to join them and make music was an easy one.”

I told my fellow musicians before we performed J.S. Bach, Osvaldo Golijov, David Sanford, Billy Strayhorn, Richard Prior, and Joseph Haydn, and I say it here: I am with you. Stand strong and lead us into the future as a role model for orchestras around the country. Stand up for the importance and relevance of music and culture in a time filled with the deafening noise of fear and mediocrity. I heard your voices and so did the audience on this night.

The evening following the performance with the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony, I was rehearsing a new concerto by composer/conductor Richard Prior at Emory University with the Emory Symphony Orchestra. Meters away, Amber Vinson, nurse-turned-Ebola-patient from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was being escorted to the university hospital, by a surreal display of space-age sterility. On stage were young college faces concentrating on the shifting meters and new melodies of a freshly inked cello concerto, as just outside, a nurse was wrapped up in a cocoon, infected by a plague that could potentially kill millions. The proximity of a natural plague put everything that I had experienced the night before in a whole new light.

We need music more then ever to appeal to the better side of our human nature. We need music to replace fear with hope, silence with harmony, to lift our spirits, to open our minds and hearts to the world around us. Music of all the art forms is where we can hear so many voices simultaneously come together as one whole. The fight being fought by the Atlanta Symphony is not only about the lives and livelihood of 100-or-so musicians. It is about the struggle to lift our culture out of the black hole of bottom lines. This should not be a fight between an accountant and a musician, or a corporation and orchestra. It should be a discussion about what the symphony orchestra can be as an integral part of the community’s consciousness. I am with you Atlanta Symphony.

By: Matt Haimovitz

Read at: Slipped Disc

Oxingale Music Announces New Composition Competition for Cello and Voice

May 29, 2014

Oxingale Music, publisher of a range of contemporary sheet music from award-winning composers, announces the first in a series of composition competitions aimed at building the repertoire for cello and unusual ensembles. The nucleus of Oxingale Music is a catalogue of works written for, premiered by, and recorded by Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz.

For the 2014 Composition Competition Oxingale Music and Matt Haimovitz join UK vocal trio Voice in inviting composers of all ages and nationalities to submit a work for cello and three voices, using text from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 8, 30, or 60. Works should be under ten minutes in duration. There is no fee to submit. For additional details, please see below.

Prizes:

- The winning composition will be premiered by Matt Haimovitz and Voice in February, 2015 in New York State with the possibility of further performances in 2016.
– Oxingale Music will provide the composer a stipend of up to $500 towards travel and accommodation to attend rehearsals and the concert.
– The composer will be provided an archive recording of the performance, if available.
– The winning composition will be considered for publication on Oxingale Music.
Guidelines:

- Submission deadline: October 15, 2014
– Composers of any age or nationality may submit one original work.
– Duration: up to 10 minutes
– Text must be taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 8, 30, or 60. Sonnets may be used in whole or in part, individually or combined, at the composer’s discretion.
– Work must be for acoustic cello and un-amplified voices. (No electronics please)
– Works must be submitted electronically via dropbox or other file-transfer method. Please see required submission package contents below. Please do not submit materials via email or postal mail.
Vocal ranges:

Victoria = A3 to C6. Happy to sing in a folky chest register up to D5.
Emily = G3 to B6.
Clemmie = E3 to G6. She is most comfortable A3 to E6.
Please visit Voice’s website where you can listen to recordings and get an idea of the three singers’ blend on different tracks. If you have specific questions regarding the vocalists, please direct your inquiries to Victoria at voicetrio@gmail.com.
Submission package must include:

- Complete submission form (below)
– PDF of full score
– XML or .sib file of full score
– Biography/CV of composer
– Photo of composer
For more information on the artists and Oxingale Music please visit:

http://www.matthaimovitz.com
http://www.voicetrio.co.uk
http://www.oxingalemusic.com
The fine print:

- The competition organizers reserve the right not to select a winner.
– By submitting a work to this competition you certify that the composition is original and does not rely on the copyrighted material of any other person.
– Payment of stipend will be made in the form of reimbursement of expenses. Documentation of expenses must be received no later than 30 days after the premiere.
– Archive recording may be used for promotional purposes only. Any commercial use or public broadcast must be approved separately.
– By submitting a work to this competition you certify that there is no legal impediment to Oxingale Music acting as publisher for this work. If any conflict exists, please disclose it on the submission form. Oxingale Music reserves the right not to publish the winning composition.

General inquiries can be sent to info@oxingale.com Please do not email submissions.

Application

 

The New York Times: Classical Playlist: Beethoven, Shostakovich, Tigran Mansurian and More

May 15, 2014

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

‘AKOKA: REFRAMING OLIVIER MESSIAEN’S QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME’
David Krakauer, clarinetist; Matt Haimovitz, cellist; Jonathan Crow, violinist; Geoffrey Burleson, pianist; Socalled, electronics
(Oxingale)
This brilliantly inventive recording pays tribute to Henri Akoka, the Algerian-born clarinetist who egged on Messiaen to compose when both were prisoners of war in a German camp during World War II. Framing a vivid rendition of the “Quartet for the End of Time” are two musical flights of fancy, an improvisation by the extraordinary clarinetist David Krakauer, and an electronic remix of the quartet by Socalled. (Fonseca-Wollheim)

Read at: The New York Times

JohnMontanari.com: Album du jour: David Krakauer, Matt Haimovitz, et al., “Akoka”

May 11, 2014
Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

On the cold and rainy night of January 15, 1941, in the unheated Barrack 27 of Stalag VIIIA in Görlitz, Germany, an audience of some 400 prisoners-of-war and guards listened in rapt silence as four musicians, performing on ramshackle instruments, gave the first performance of one of the great chamber works of the 20th century.  While it is doubtful that even the most devoted practitioner of historically-informed performance would want to recreate the premiere of Olivier Messiaen’s “Quatuor pour le fin du temps” (“Quartet for the End of Time”), this amazing backstory adds even further resonance to a work of stunning originality, power and spirit.  (For the full story, Rebecca Rischin’s “For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet” is highly recommended.)

What’s that?  You’ve never heard Messiaen’s Quartet?  Well then, you’re in for an extraordinary musical experience, one which will grow with each hearing.  In eight movements, variously scored for one, two, three or all four instruments, Messiaen combines his favorite preoccupations, such as birdsong, rhythmic and melodic symmetry, synesthesia (e.g., musical rainbows) and fervent, sentimental Catholicism into perhaps this incredibly original composer’s most accessible large-scale work.  Not for nothing has the Quartet appealed over the years to audiences steeped in psychedelia, mysticism, minimalism, new age philosophy, eastern religion and just about every other alternative life- or musical style associated with adventurous youth.

On their splendid, just-released 2008 live concert recording (with violinist Jonathan Crow and pianist Geoffrey Burleson), clarinetist David Krakauer and cellist Matt Haimovitz have framed the Quartet with a works that pay tribute to the remarkable clarinetist of its premiere, an Algerian Jew named Henri Akoka.  As prologue, the four musicians collaborate on a mostly-improvised, electronically-enhanced piece (credited to Krakauer) called “Akoka,” transforming elements of the Messiaen into a Klezmer-ish lament and dance filled with clarinet smears, cello scrapes (much like those Matt Haimovitz employed in his celebrated version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Anthem”), scratchy violin off-beats and strummed piano strings.

For the epilogue, Canadian producer Socalled (Josh Dolgin) “merges live samples of the musicians with old radio broadcasts, hiphop, cantorial singing and markers of time…” into a piece called “MEANWHILE…”  Of all the album’s ten tracks, this will probably age least well, especially its rapped passages.  For the present, it’s a stimulating modern commentary on a great musical work.

But it’s the performance of the Quartet that commends and rewards most of our attention here.  Not that there aren’t excellent alternative versions in the current discography, but this one can take its place with the best of them for both individual and ensemble excellence.  To cite just a few examples:  The quiet central passage of the 2nd movement, “Vocalise, for the Angel Who Announces the End of Time” has rarely been as mesmerizing.  David Krakauer’s superb rendition of the 3rd movement clarinet solo, “Abyss of the Birds,” is filled with personality, subtly reminding us that for all its mellow mellifluousness, the clarinet was also the instrument par excellence of the red light district, the shtetl and the Roma encampment.  And Matt Haimovitz’s modulation of both tone color and vibrato in the sublime 5th movement duo, “Praise to the Eternity of Jesus” are wondrous to hear — artistry of the highest order.

Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is best experienced live — what great work isn’t?  In the meantime, and for keeps, this fine, imaginative CD is highly recommended, and will fit right into your shelf next to your Mahler, your Moby, your Moondog and your Mozart.  At least that’s where it is on my shelf.

By: John Montanari

Read at: JohnMontanari.com

The New York Times, ArtsBeat: Opera America Names Eight Grant Winners

April 2, 2014

Late last year, Opera America set out to encourage women composers to write new operas, and offered incentives, by way of a two-year grant program, underwritten by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The organization announced the first group of recipients of its Opera Grants for Female Composers on Tuesday. Eight composers, and their proposed projects, were chosen from among 112 eligible applicants. Each will receive a $12,500 grant to help develop her opera.

The winner composers (and projects) are Anna Clyne (“As Sudden Shut”); Michelle DiBucci (“Charlotte Salomon: Death and the Painter”); Laura Kaminsky (“As One”); Kristin Kuster (“Old Presque Isle”); Anne LeBaron (“Psyche & Delia”); Fang Man (“Golden Lily”); Sheila Silver (“A Thousand Splendid Suns”); and Luna Pearl Woolf (“The Pillar”).

The adjudication panel included the vocal coach Susan Ashbaker; the composers Douglas Cuomo and David T. Little; the mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer; and the librettist and composer Gene Scheer.

By: ALLAN KOZINN

Read at: The New York Times

The Examiner: Oxingale presents a stunning context for Messiaen on its latest release

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

Yesterday Oxingale released a new recording with a somewhat intimidating title, Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. This title definitely deserves points (and probably extra credit) for truth in advertising. It refers to Henri Akoka, a Jewish clarinetist who met Messiaen on the way to Stalag VIII-A, the prisoner-of-war camp to which Messiaen was sent when he was captured by the German army in June of 1940. While they were in transit to the camp, Messiaen worked up sketches for a clarinet solo that he showed to Akoka. Those sketches would eventually become the “Abîme des oiseaux” (abyss of birds) movement of his “Quatuor pour la fin du temps.” Once at the camp, Messiaen and Akoka met the violinist Jean le Boulaire and the cellist Étienne Pasquier. Messiaen wrote a short trio for clarinet, violin, and cello from which the full quartet eventually emerged and was first performed at the camp (“outdoors and in the rain,” as its Wikipedia page observes) on January 15, 1941 with Messiaen taking the piano part.

On this new recording the performers are Geoffrey Burleson on piano, David Krakauer on clarinet, Jonathan Crow on violin, and Matt Haimovitz on cello. It is, to say the least, one hell of an interpretation, combining connotations of highly free improvisation (as in “Abîme des oiseaux”) with the rhythmically demanding unison for the entire quartet in the “Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes” (dance of fury, for the seven trumpets), requiring the utmost precision for the required uniformity. However, in the midst of all the technical demands lies some of Messiaen’s most visceral efforts at composition. While this is probably a reflection of the composer’s deeply-felt commitment to the Catholic religion, I have previouslyconsidered the possibility that the entire composition is based on a misreading of the tenth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Thus, it is better to approach this music as a series of reflections of apocalyptic visions without worrying about whether or not those visions can be traced back to the New Testament.

In that respect this new recording establishes a context for Messiaen’s quartet that has more to do with the circumstances surrounding the original performers than with Messiaen’s personal articles of faith. It begins with “AKOKA,” which is an almost entirely improvised composition by Krakauer. This suggests (not necessarily accurately) that at least some of the passages that Messiaen composed may have been inspired by his listening to Akoka, le Boulaire, and Pasquier improvising on their respective instruments. It is thus at least remotely possible that “AKOKA” honors a significant precedent, since much of the music that Alban Berg composed for the violin part in his concerto emerged from his listening to improvisations by the violinist who commissioned the concerto, Louis Krasner.

Adventurous as “AKOKA” may be, as a prelude it is a bit modest in comparison with the postlude, entitled “MEANWHILE….” This is the work of Socalled, which is the name that composer Josh Dolgin assumes when he is working as a “beat architect.” The music (and, yes, I have no problem with calling it “music”) is a collage that mixes live samples of the four Messiaen performers with old radio broadcasts (news reports of the Nazi advances during the Second World War), hip-hop, Jewish liturgical incantation, and the steady beats of “markers of time.” Particularly impressive is when Socalled inserts an incessant club-scene beat behind that homophonic “Danse de la fureur” movement. On the one hand this mix affirms the precision with which that music was being played; but, at the same time, it refracts the apocalyptic denotations of the score through a jazzy lens, making for a provocative distortion of Messiaen’s original conception.

Haimovitz has been quoted as saying that the intention of the full program for this recording was to lift Messiaen’s quartet “out of the polite confines of a normal chamber music performance.” He and his colleagues have succeeded admirably; but it is worth noting that they are not the only ones inspired by this “mission statement.” Here in San Francisco in February of 2011, four of the musicians in Nonsemble 6 (originally formed by students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to prepare a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 21 Pierrot Lunaire) performed Messiaen’s quartet in the Red Poppy Art House surrounded by eight paintings (one for each of the quartet’s movements) by Olivia Lam. Just as Messiaen’s score amounts to a highly individual reading of New Testament scripture, so can performances of this music reflect equally individual readings through other uses of auxiliary media.

By: Stephen Smoliar

Read at: The Examiner

The Economist: Musical instruments on planes: Air with a G-string

March 12, 2014

Matt HaimovitzWHEN Matt Haimovitz (pictured), a concert-hall cellist, travels, he is accompanied by CBBG Haimovitz. That’s Cabin Baggage Haimovitz—Mr Haimovitz’s cello.  “When I was a teenager, my strategy was to sneak my cello onto the plane, smile nicely at the flight attendants and hope that they’d put it in the overhead bin,” says Mr Haimovitz. “It worked around 50% of the time, but the other times they’d tell me that I had to check it, and I couldn’t face it going in the hold, so I started paying for a seat.”

As a well-paid soloist, Mr Haimowitz is lucky that he can afford such a luxury. Others must take a risk. “Seeing your instrument going up the conveyor belt, you don’t know whether you’ll be able to play it after you arrive,” says Ray Hair, president of the American Federation of Musicians. It is a situation that legislators are trying to remedy. Last month, the European Parliament passed a bill requiring airlines to accept smaller instruments such as violins in the cabin. The bill now goes to the European Council, which represents the EU governments. Organisations such as the Musicians’ Union in Britain are backing the idea. It says the current patchwork of rules leads to confusion. Musicians can leave a country on a flight where one regulation applies to instruments, only to find the rules on the return leg are different.

Two years ago, the US Congress instructed the Department of Transportation (DoT) to write a directive requiring airlines to store instruments in overhead bins. Larger instruments weighing less than 165 lbs (75 kg) should be allowed in the plane if the owner buys an extra seat, Congress ordered. But even though the department’s deadline passed last month, the DoT hasn’t even begun writing the rules. IATA, the trade association for the world’s airlines, is relieved. It says that carriers should remain free to set their own prices and policies for onboard musical instruments.

So airbound instruments still face an unknown fate. While most airlines allow small instruments, such as violins, as part of the carry-on baggage allowance, some count it as a second piece of luggage and charge for it. Others, such as Ryanair, only allow smaller instruments in the cabin, and then only if the owner has paid for an additional seat.

On some airlines, owners of large instruments can request they be put in a heated section of the cargo hold. But even though today’s cases are sturdy, the instrument can arrive damaged. When Suzanne Bizet, a Maltese music teacher, booked a ticket to travel to Madrid for a concert, her low-cost airline informed her that she would have to buy an extra seat for her violin. Instead Ms Bizet bought a decent replacment on eBay and had it shipped to Madrid. After a particularly heavy-handed inspection by airport security staff in San Francisco, Timothy Spears, a double-bassist, decided always to travel by car instead. At a recent music competition, one participant went for a more unconventional option still: he left his cello at home, hoping that a member of the resident orchestra would lend him one. A kind player did.

Until the law speaks clearly, musical instruments and aeroplanes will remain an uneasy pairing. Airlines, desperate to cut costs wherever possible, are unlikely to go out of their way to accommodate musicians, especially those flying economy class. But musicians rely on air travel for their livelihoods. As a drummer, Mr Hair always has to put his drums in the cargo, and so far they have survived unscathed. “But it shouldn’t be down to luck,” he says.

How to identify instruments, meanwhile, remains an additional issue for legislators to address. In an age when each seat occupant requires documentation, travellers like CBBG Haimovitz—and Mr Guitar, and Mr Cello, as some musicians call their companions—pose a challenge. And while some airlines issue boarding passes to instruments, others don’t. Yet despite all the hassle, instruments on airplanes sometimes add a humane note to an often-monotonous activity. On a recent trip, a flight attendant asked Mr Haimovitz if he might like to perform a piece in the skies. To the delight of fellow passengers, he got up and played.

By: E.H.B.

Read at: The Economist

The Jewish Week: Hearing A Jewish Downbeat

February 19, 2014

Cellist Matt Haimovitz’s Shoah-tinged ‘Akoka.’

When he was 16, Israeli-born cellist Matt Haimovitz was invited to play Richard Strauss’ “Don Quixote” with the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Herbert von Karajan. Berlin? Strauss, a darling of the Nazi regime? Von Karajan, who was a member of the Nazi party? But a career breakthrough of immense proportions.

He was pondering the offer when his grandfather extended another invitation.

“My grandfather took me to Yad Vashem,” he recalled in a telephone interview last week. “The experience was so powerful that I turned them down. It was a very difficult decision. It was a pinnacle on a professional level, but I couldn’t do that to my grandparents.”

Haimovitz’s career survived. He made the difficult transition from prodigy to adult professional by gradually moving away from the standard cello repertoire and expanding his horizons to take in new music and the challenges of experimentation. And he has paid back his debt to his grandparents handsomely with his new album, “Akoka,” a stunning combination of the old and the new that evokes the Shoah in an elegant way.

The centerpiece of the CD is a shatteringly beautiful performance of Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” a deeply spiritual piece of music written while Messiaen was a prisoner in a German POW camp. The clarinetist for whom he wrote the piece was a fellow prisoner, an Algerian Jew named Henri Akoka. When a sympathetic camp guard arranged for Messiaen and the other musicians to be sent back to France, Akoka’s Jewish features led to his being kept in the POW camp. He eventually escaped, jumping from a train with his clarinet under his arm.

Haimovitz has teamed with David Krakauer and Socalled to create two pieces in response to the Messiaen, a composition by Krakauer bearing Akoka’s name, and a mash-up by Socalled that combines the Messiaen with the beat-maker’s usual witty collection of sound bites, musical samples and frisky beats. The result is compelling listening, particularly when you know the story behind the compositions.

“It’s always powerful to play the Messiaen,” Haimovitz said. “To think of the circumstances, that makes it an even more spiritual experience. It’s an extraordinary statement that under those conditions you could come up with something so beautiful and transcendent. It lifts the spirit.”

By: George Robinson
Read at: The Jewish Week

The New York Times: A Crushed Spirit, Healed by the Whispers of Angels

October 17, 2013
"Angel Heart" was conceived by Luna Pearl Woolf and  Lisa Delan.

“Angel Heart” was conceived by Luna Pearl Woolf and Lisa Delan.

“There.”

“Do you hear it?”
At the beginning, there is only the voice of Jeremy Irons. Then, the sound of strings: high, sparkling filaments of sound that dance around the narrator’s voice like dust particles catching the light.

There is a whispering of wings in the silence of the night.

They’re coming. With feathers as white as snow and faces as bright as the moonlight:

Angels.

“Angel Heart” is a tender and emotionally astute children’s story told in words and music. Last month it was released as an audiobook CD; on Monday it will be performed live at Zankel Hall with the actor Chris Noth as narrator. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: ‘Angel Heart:’ A Fairy Tale for the Digital Age

September 19, 2013

Collaboration of Author Cornelia Funke, Composer Luna Pearl Woolf and Soprano Lisa Delan Builds on Tradition of ‘Peter and the Wolf’.

Continue reading

New York Times, Sunday Edition: Unleashing the Potential of the Strings: More Musicians Are Trying Period Instruments

August 30, 2013
The cellist Matt Haimovitz with a Bohemian cello from 1770. Photo by Stephen Woolf

The cellist Matt Haimovitz with a Bohemian cello from 1770. Photo by Stephen Woolf

PLAINFIELD, Mass. — On a recent sunny afternoon, Matt Haimovitz entered a carpentry workshop here that doubles as a music studio and gently pulled the door shut. The garden of the 19th-century farmhouse echoed with the shouts of children. But the newest family member was quietly leaning against the wall. It was darker than its sibling next to it and covered in pockmarks, but Mr. Haimovitz cupped his hand around its neck with loving pride: “This is my Beethoven cello.”

Mr. Haimovitz is one of the leading cellists of his generation and equally well known for his ardent interpretations of the classics as for boundary-pushing projects involving electronics and collaborations with unusual instruments. For 25 years, he has played a spectacular Goffriller cello made in 1710 that has a rich, golden sound. Continue reading

Strombo Tonight: MUSICAL PERFORMANCE – Matt Haimovitz & Chris O’Riley

March 23, 2012

In case you missed it, Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley perform a classical rendition of Arcade Fire’s ‘Empty Room’ from their double-album CD set, ‘Shuffle.Play.Listen.’

Continue reading

Goulash!

Goulash!

Goulash!

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Celebrating Bartk’s fascination with the folk music of Transylvania, Hungary, Romania and Turkey, cellist Matt Haimovitz delves into his own Romanian/Middle Eastern ancestry to create a sonic tapestry that bridges genres, geographic distances and Continue reading

Epilogue

Epilogue

Epilogue

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Epilogue explores two strikingly different works, each written in the last months in the lives of two contemporary early Romantic composers, Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn.

Oxingale is proud to announce the collaboration of the acclaimed Miró Quartet and cellist Matt Haimovitz in a Continue reading

Anthem

Anthem

Anthem

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On September 9, 2003, Oxingale Records launched ANTHEM, cellist Matt Haimovitz’s highly charged collection of solo works by living American composers featuring his live rendition of “Anthem,” inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner,” recorded live Continue reading

Hyperstring Trilogy

Hyperstring Trilogy

Hyperstring Trilogy

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Composer Tod Machover’s ground-breaking Hyperstring Trilogy with Matt Haimovitz on hypercello, Kim Kashkashian on hyperviola, Ani Kavafian on hyperviolin, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose.

“Hyperstrings” are instruments enhanced with technology, designed “to enable the performer’s normal playing technique and interpretive skills to shape and control computer extensions to the instrument, Continue reading

The Rose Album

The Rose Album

The Rose Album

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Nominated for the INDIE Award for BEST CLASSICAL ALBUM OF 2002, Matt Haimovitz’s poetic Rose Album is a reminiscence, through musical associations, of his teacher and mentor, the legendary American cellist, Leonard Rose. Schubert’s beloved Arpeggione Sonata and romantic works by Continue reading

Lemons Descending

Lemons Descending

Lemons Descending

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In Lemons Descending, the common thread of voice and cello conjures a contemporary musical world rooted in the traditions of a millennium. Soprano Eileen Clark and cellist Matt Haimovitz perform the recital ranging from Hildegard Von Bingen to John Tavener’s “Ahkmatova Songs”, from a first recording of Luna Pearl Woolf’s “Epithalamion” to Heitor Villa-Lobos’ beloved “Bachianas Brasileirsas No. 5″ Continue reading

J. S. Bach: 6 Suites for Cello Solo

J. S. Bach: 6 Suites for Cello Solo

J. S. Bach: 6 Suites for Cello Solo

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In 2000, Matt Haimovitz celebrated the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s death with a live-television broadcast of the complete solo Bach cello suites at the Schwetzingen Castle in Germany. Subsequently, Haimovitz took Bach’s beloved cello suites out of the concert hall, performing them in intimate venues and music clubs across the U.S., Canada, and Continue reading

Ravalli Republic: Shuffle.Play.Listen: Pianist Matt Haimovitz and cellist Christopher O’Riley to perform at Hamilton PAC

November 20, 2014

“Shuffle.Play.Listen” is the program title of the upcoming concert by acclaimed pianist and host of NPR’s From the Top Christopher O’Riley and Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz, to be presented this Saturday evening by the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council.

Monica Grable, executive director of the BPAC, said the Bitterroot Valley audience will be wowed by this performance.

“We’ve only begun to present classical music within the past few years and we strive to offer the best of whatever genre we are presenting – these are some of the best,” said Grable.

“Whether or not people view themselves as a classical music fan, this is a musically diverse concert that anyone would enjoy live. Seeing great artists perform live is infinitely better than any other medium.”

Haimovitz and O’Riley are “each considered rock stars of the classical music world, both known for engaging a new generation and blurring the lines between classical and a wide range of other popular music genres – including rock. In this exciting concert, the celebrated artists will perform from a wide-ranging playlist including works by Stravinsky, Piazzolla, Radiohead, John McLaughlin and Arcade Fire.”

“This concert is particularly exciting for music lovers of all kinds; although they are highly regarded as classical musicians, they are also known for creating arrangements – covers – of complex rock tunes by bands like Radiohead,” said Grable. “This is a not-to-be-missed concert.

“Christopher O’Riley is one of the most renowned pianists in the country, though most people know him from his radio show, From the Top, showcasing phenomenal young musicians. He continues to enjoy the most diverse creative life of any pianist of his generation and plays a multitude of styles and genres from pre-Baroque to compositions of the present day: as concerto soloist and conductor, the dozens of works in his repertoire with orchestra span all centuries.”

“Matt Haimovitz is a Grammy-nominated artist who has received a lot of attention for his work inside and outside of classical music. He is a contemporary cellist that everyone is paying attention to. He brings a fresh ear to familiar repertoire, champions new music and initiates ground-breaking collaborations as well as creating innovative recording projects.”

The Bitterroot Performing Arts Council is continuing their tradition of educational outreach experiences and has partnered with both performers to offer master classes on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

Christopher O’Riley will conduct a master class for invited advanced high school and college students on the stage of the Hamilton Performing Arts Center and an audience is welcome to observe. In this class, valley students will be able to participate in the conversation and watch O’Riley as he works with University of Montana piano students who will have prepared pieces for him to critique.

The master class with Matt Haimovitz, for invited advanced high school and college students, will take place in the Hamilton High School choir rehearsal room, where an audience is also welcome.

BPAC has scholarship tickets available for student musicians to attend the evening concert. Anyone interested should call the box office at 363-7946.

For more information about the artists visit their websites: christopheroriley.com and matthaimovitz.com.

By: Michelle McConnaha

Read at: Ravalli Republic

Oxingale Music announces Winner of Composition Competition

November 16, 2014

Oxingale Music, publisher of a range of contemporary sheet music from award-winning composers, has chosen a slate of winners for the first in a series of composition competitions aimed at expanding and enrich the repertoire for cello in unusual combinations and ensembles. The nucleus of Oxingale Music is a catalogue of works written for, premiered by, and recorded by Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz.

For the 2014 Composition Competition, Oxingale Music and Matt Haimovitz joined UK vocal trio Voice in inviting composers of all ages and nationalities to submit a work for cello and three voices, using text from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 8, 30, or 60. 

Over 40 composers from over 18 countries entered works, most written expressly for this competition. 

The winning composition will be premiered by Matt Haimovitz and Voice in February, 2015 in New York State, with the possibility of further performances into 2016. The winning composer will be offered up to $500 to defray the cost of travel and accommodations to attend rehearsals and the concert. In addition, the full slate of winning compositions will be considered for publication on Oxingale Music.

Because of the tremendous quality of submissions received, Matt Haimovitz and Voice will perform at least one of the runner-up works, in addition to the winning composition, on their concert in February.

• Winning composition: Bozo Banovic, “Sonnet 60 of William Shakespeare,” Serbia 

• Runners up:

Diana Rosenblum, “Like as the waves,” United States

Filipe Sousa, “Like as the waves,” Portugal 

• Honorable mention: Gabriel Malancioiu, “Chronos phagos – The Eater of Time,” Romania

The Morning Call: Review: Symphony, guest cellist show passion, poise, panache

November 4, 2014

Elgar’s brooding, anguished cello concerto is a beautifully bitter pill to swallow, taken by itself. So when the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, joined by renowned cellist Matt Haimovitz, tackled the monumental work Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Miller Symphony Hall, it cleverly sweetened the bill. Sugar coating the Elgar on one side was the Pennsylvania premiere of Roberto Sierra’s bouncy “Montuno.” On the other side: Beethoven’s uplifting Symphony No. 5 on the other.

It is difficult to hear Elgar’s E Minor Cello Concerto without some comparison, subliminal or otherwise, to the version performed by the English cellist Jacqueline du Pré. If Haimovitz lacked some of du Pré’s spontaneity, he more than made up for it with his passion and poise.

His rich, buttery tone was a perfect match for the work’s weeping tearfulness. Indeed, in the first movement his cello sounded almost chant-like, channeling a sense of sadness akin to Max Bruch’s setting of the Hebrew prayer Kol Nidrei.

The work was not without its flights of idyllic release, but these were brief and countered with stuttering cello pizzicatos and bowed sighs. Smooth glissandos rounded out the lyrical second movement, while in the third Haimovitz soared up into the instrument’s highest registers. The orchestra, sounding string-rich, performed splendidly — an ideal soul-mate for the anguished voice of Haimovitz’s cello.

“Montuno” was a slinky, seductive fusion of Spanish guitar and vocal music with the vibrant rhythms of Afro-Cuban percussion. Heavily based on the clave, a traditional Latin rhythmic pattern, the piece opened with the slow, rhythmical tapping of the claves — a pair of short wooden dowels found in African, Cuban and Brazilian music.

From there it bloomed into a vibrant series of variations, each successively more energetic — à la Ravel’s “Bolero” — before coming to an exhilarating close. The work’s complex Latin rhythms were wonderfully orchestrated, and played by the orchestra with finesse at the Sunday afternoon concert I attended.

Conductor Diane Wittry put new life into Beethoven’s fifth symphony by performing the old warhorse at the scalding tempo of nearly 108 beats per minute, which is where Beethoven originally wanted it. Not only that, she re-arranged the string section, placing the second violins on stage right — again, a common practice in Beethoven’s day. The outcome was a stunning gem of a performance, with clarity, crispness and panache.

Most surprising in the performance was the second movement, which at its brisk andante con moto pace revealed more da-da-da-DUMs in its structure than usually heard. They were everywhere — in the main theme, the counter-themes, the cellos, the woodwinds. The entire orchestra was a pleasure to hear throughout the work — too bad the rapid pace brought it to a close so quickly.

By: Steve Siegel

Read at: The Morning Call

The Morning Call: Matt Haimovitz joins Allentown Symphony for Elgar Cello Concerto

October 29, 2014

An award-winning cellist joins an award-winning orchestra for an award-worthy program of music by Beethoven, Elgar and Sierra this weekend at Miller Symphony Hall.

Matt Haimovitz will team up with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s celebrated Concerto for Cello, on a program that also features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and the Pennsylvania premiere of Roberto Sierra’s “Montuno.”

Haimovitz, who won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Producer and a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album for his 2011 release “Meeting of the Spirits,” will be in good company when he takes the stage at Symphony Hall. The orchestra, under the baton of music director Diane Wittry, is the 2014 winner of the American Prize in Orchestral Performance in the professional orchestra division.
The American Prize, founded in 2009, is a series of nonprofit competitions designed to recognize and reward performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States. Based on submitted recordings, it is awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts. Winners receive cash prizes, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition.

Haimovitz, 43, has received a fair share of recognition himself. Praised for the intensity of his playing by Newsweek and his technical panache by The Boston Globe, he is a champion of new music and brings familiar repertoire to new audiences in unexpected places.

The Israeli-born cellist, who divides his home between Montreal and New York, has appeared with some of the most revered orchestras of the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony.

Haimovitz studied at the Collegiate School in New York and at Juilliard in the final class of Leonard Rose. He continued his cello studies with Ronald Leonard and Yo-Yo Ma, and in 1996 received a B.A. with highest honors from Harvard University.

Like Ma, Haimovitz challenges the conventional definition of a concert cellist. He has played Bach’s solo cello suites in beer halls and biker bars, and has been known to saw through a Led Zeppelin tune from time to time with his eight-cello band, Uccello. It was with Uccello that he made “Meeting of the Spirits.” That disc features nine jazz milestones, including works by Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis and George Gershwin, in arrangements by Pittsburgh composer David Sanford.
But it will be Elgar’s cello concerto, not Miles Davis’ “Half Nelson,” that Haimovitz will be performing at Symphony Hall. Completed in 1919, it was Elgar’s last major work for orchestra, and one dominated by a sense of anguish. Not only was Elgar suffering from illness, but he also was deeply depressed by the destruction he witnessed in World War I. To give a voice to his pain, he chose the cello for its rich-toned yet brooding personality and its searing, dark timbre.

After the dark and gloomy opening of the first movement, the clarinets introduce a fleeting theme of idyllic release, treated in the graceful manner of a siciliana. The second movement is prefaced by a pizzicato version of the cello’s opening recitative. Haimovitz’s treatment here should be interesting to see — not too long ago, he attacked a pizzicato in David Sanford’s “22 Part I” with such enthusiasm he pulled a string right out of the bridge.

A meditative adagio follows, and by the end of the piece the recitative of the first movement is heard again, with tension dramatically building as the cello sings through all but a single measure.

In contrast to the elegiac nature of Elgar’s cello concerto is Roberto Sierra’s “Montuno” (From the Mountains). Sierra, a native of Puerto Rico, came to prominence in 1987, when his first major orchestral composition, “Jubilo,” was performed at Carnegie Hall by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. In 2008, his Viola Concerto was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music Composition.

A “montuno” is an instrumental dance form originating in the hilly regions of eastern Cuba that fuses Spanish guitar and vocal music with the vibrant rhythms of Afro-Cuban percussion. Sierra, who rooted his work in the form’s early traditions, writes that his orchestral “Montuno” is based on the “clave,” a traditional Latin rhythmic pattern and its corollary two-measure chord sequence. The work builds into a series of variations as more instrumental voices are added before coming to an exhilarating close.

Not much more can be said about Beethoven’s iconic fifth symphony, with the exception of pointing out the extreme difficulty in getting that first “da-da-da-DUM” off to a good start. Those four notes — the single most forceful, electrifying and recognizable opening to a symphony — actually are preceded by a rest, and getting it right takes lots of work.

That four-note rhythmic idea permeates the rest of the symphony as well, followed by the elaborate variations of the slow movement. In the famous scherzo, Beethoven quotes and transforms the opening of the final movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. The finale closes in a blaze of C-major glory, with trombones, piccolo and contrabassoon, all held in reserve by Beethoven until this climactic movement.

•Allentown Symphony Orchestra with cellist Matt Haimovitz, 8 p.m. Nov. 1, 3 p.m. Nov. 2, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown. Tickets: $19-$52; $10 students. 610-432-6715, http://www.millersymphonyhall.org. Parking available in the transportation deck at Sixth and Linden streets.

 

Steve Siegel

Read at: The Morning Call

Arts ATL: Review: Locked-out ASO musicians perform DIY concert with guest cellist Matt Haimovitz

October 16, 2014

 

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On Tuesday evening, the ATL Symphony Musicians presented their most recent concert at the spacious Dunwoody United Methodist Church. The small orchestra was led by Richard Prior, composer and director of orchestral studies at Emory University. They were joined by cellist Matt Haimovitz as featured guest soloist in the evening’s interesting mixed bag of orchestral, chamber and solo works.

The performance was one of several scheduled by the musicians since they were locked out by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management on September 7 after the two sides failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The concert was attended by about 400 people, less than a full house.

Haimovitz opened the concert with a pair of unaccompanied cello works: the Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 and “Seventh Avenue Kaddish” by David Sanford, the latter a remembrance commissioned by Haimovitz after the tragedies of 9/11. The emotionally harrowing work places the cellist near Ground Zero, in the guise of a saxophone-wielding street musician playing “as buildings collapse, debris blinds, dust suffocates” and yet continues to wail because he can do nothing else.

He was then joined by ASO principal percussionist Tom Sherwood for a deeply moving performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s “Mariel” for cello and marimba, in which the composer “attempted to capture that short instant before grief, in which one learns of the sudden death of a friend who was full of life.”

Three ASO cellists — principal Christopher Rex, Brad Ritchie and Dona Klein then joined Haimovitz for Sanford’s four-cello arrangement of “Blood Count” by jazz composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn, his last finished composition for Duke Ellington before dying of esophageal cancer in 1967. This version captured well the bittersweet beauty of Ellington’s rendition, with solo part by Haimovitz echoing the spirit of saxophonist Johnny Hodges, who died only a few years after Strayhorn.

While Haimovitz took a break, the orchestra assembled and Prior conducted one of his own compositions, “elegy for aurora,” a poignant work written for the Aurora High School in Colorado in response to the tragic movie theater shooting that occurred in that city in 2012.

Aside from the Bach Prelude, the concert’s centerpiece, Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C — which closed the concert — was the only respite from what seemed the program’s relentless themes of tragedy and death. With the Haydn work, Haimovitz and the orchestra succeeded in bringing the evening to an energized, sunny and, most importantly, hopeful close.

Haimovitz had already been scheduled to be an artist-in-residence at Emory University this week, but agreed to arrive a day early to perform with the ATL Symphony Musicians, a move that some warned him was a professional risk. Haimovitz provided the following statement to ArtsATL about his decision to play:

I have never before taken sides in a labor dispute, but my gut said, “Yes!” In tumultuous times we need music more then ever, for the musicians, for the community, for music’s sake. 

Before confirming my participation, I polled some music industry folks whose expertise and opinion I respect. Nearly across the board I received stern warnings against participating in such a concert and “appearing to take sides” in the dispute. I was told “if you do this, you will never again be hired by a major symphony orchestra.” I have never made life or artistic decisions based on that, so the warnings sounded hollow to me.

I do not profess to have any knowledge of the orchestra’s budget or deficit. Clearly there are issues to work out with the model. Will any symphony orchestra look the same 20 years from now? I doubt it, and I hope not. But I am a musician who is concerned about the priority and state of culture in our society today. If that debate were taking place, in good faith, with the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony, I would not have played. But it is not, and the decision to join them and make music was an easy one. 

Haimovitz will premiere Prior’s Concerto this Saturday with the composer conducting the Emory University Symphony Orchestra in a free concert at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Just so there is no public confusion: that concert is unrelated to the ATL Symphony Musicians, who will themselves present a chamber music concert on Friday, the night before, in Kellett Chapel at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

By: Mark Gresham

Read at: Arts ATL

Arts and Culture Blog, Atlanta: Locked-out Atlanta Symphony musicians to perform 3 concerts Friday and Tuesday

October 10, 2014

The locked-out players of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, billing themselves as ATL Symphony Musicians, will be presenting concerts on Friday and next Tuesday.

  • Friday’s performances will be at Oglethorpe University‘s Conant Performing Arts Center at 7 and 9 p.m., with an audience reception with the musicians open to both audiences on the Conant’s picnic grounds at 8 p.m.

Prior is the Emory University Department of Music conducting chair as well as conductor of the Rome (Ga.) Symphony Orchestra.Richard Prior will conduct approximately 35 musicians in programs of Mozart’s Requiem — with the Atlanta Mozart Choir, a.k.a. some 75 members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus — and Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

General admission tickets are $25; $75 for “special onstage seating.” The Conant is at 4484 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta.

  • Tuesday’s concert will be in the Dunwoody Methodist Church sanctuary and will feature cellist Matt Haimovitz, with Prior again conducting. The program will feature Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major, Prior’s “Elegy for Aurora” and a selection of Baroque and contemporary works.

7:30 p.m. General admission tickets (available at the door only) are $25; $15 seniors; $5 students. 1548 Mt. Vernon Road, Dunwoody. www.dunwoodyumc.org.

Prior also will conduct the season-opening Emory Symphony Orchestra program at 8 p.m. Oct. 18 at Emory. The program includes a world premiere of Prior’s  Concerto for Cello and Orchestra that will feature artist-in-residence Haimovitz.

Free. Emerson Concert Hall of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. (Free parking in the Fishburne deck next to the Schwartz Center.)

By: Howard Pousner

Read at: Arts and Culture Blog, Atlanta

Everything That Rises: Our Kind of Spirituals, No. 50: Matt Haimovitz, “The Star-Spangled Banner”

September 14, 2014

Two hundred years ago – September 14, 2014 — Francis Scott Key composed “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” the song we now know as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Eighty-three years ago, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was declared the national anthem.

Forty-five years ago, Jimi Hendrix played “The Star-Spangled Banner” with a Stratocaster and a wall of Marshall amplifiers during the Festival of Peace & Music near Woodstock, New York.

Twelve years ago, the cellist Matt Haimovitz played “The Star-Spangled Banner” – Jimi Hendrix’s version – live at CBGB.  The story is told in Reinventing Bach. Haimovitz studied with Yo-Yo Ma, enrolled at Harvard, and then dropped out of college and the classical-music recital circuit at once. The gig at CBGB – in October 2002 – was just one gig in a tour of nightclubs, cafes and restaurants in support of a self-financed CD. He played three of Bach’s cello suites, a recent piece by a living composer, and a four-string acoustic reduction of the Hendrix anthem from Woodstock — rendering feedback, string bends, dive-bomb runs, and discordura, and interpolating a few bars of “Taps.”  TheWall Street Journal‘s critic griped that he couldn’t hear the cello over the clinking bottles.

Three years ago, Haimovitz played the Hendrixian “Star-Spangled Banner” at Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street.

O say, can you hear …

By: Paul Elie

Read at: Everything That Rises

 

The Montreal Gazette: Review: OSM’s Classical Spree a great way to discover music

August 17, 2014

MONTREAL — When a weekend leaves you shaking at the doctor’s with bloodshot eyes and dehydration, it’s not usually because of classical music. This one was an exception. The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal’s Classical Spree filled Place des Arts with 25,000 people for a musical triantathalon of concerts, and us obsessives, the ones who tried to hear all of them, came to recognize each other by sight and smell.

The programming was excellent despite some unavoidable padding by mouldy or well-connected soloists. Friday’s highlight was a concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, his sequel to Trouble in Tahiti that jumps thirty years to see how the family ends up. It’s a dark work, a montage of dysfunction whose hopeful notes of reconciliation are overshadowed — literally, in this minimally-staged production, by her coffin above the stage — because it is suicide that brings the family together.

There are a few versions of the opera, which premiered in 1983. Bernstein reworked it in 1986 to include many parts of Trouble in Tahiti as flashbacks, but there’s no time for any of that on a spree, so we heard the North American premiere of Garth Edwin Sunderland’s edit, commissioned by Nagano last year in Berlin. It zips by at 90 minutes and brings out the contrast between the musically adventurous first act, which takes place between a sardonic wash of half-intelligible commentary from a group of mourners and the tense arrivals of the family — an isolated, angry father, Sam, and his two estranged kids, now adults, who live in a bisexual marriage triangle — and the clearer, more dramatic second and third acts. Baritone Gordon Bintner was electric as troubled Junior — though his character’s connection of mental illness and homosexuality is troubling — and bass baritone Nathan Berg was superb as the desperate and furious Sam. There were no duds in a cast of 14 — not bad — and the OSM winds and brass had a particularly fine outing.

Saturday put the Orford Academy Orchestra with tenor Marc Hervieux, who sounds better in recital than running around an opera, for four of Mahler’s break-up cycle, Songs of a Wayfarer, in a very full Maison. Hervieux’s German has a softness that suited the tender songs best, and conductor Jean-François Rivest’s attentiveness brought out their most delicate textures with the talented ensemble of young musicians, who were brought together only three weeks before the performance. They finished with a totally appropriate whipping of Stravinsky’s Firebird; explosions and stops like a trap door blowing open and slamming shut. Great stuff.

After that we ran to hear a rare concert of Bartok’s exhaustingly youthful Quintet. Special events like the Spree can take programmatic chances, like this one, because they have an unusual flexibility in rooms — there were empty seats even in the Cinquième Salle — and a fantastic selection of musicians. Violinists Vadim Repin and Andrew Wan, violist Neal Gripp, cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Andreï Korobeinikov produced a jewel, murky in a few facets, but one of those performances that lodge in your head for years. A strong case for this forgotten piece.

The Spree is a great time whatever my doctor says. It’s a pleasure to jostle through Place des Arts past grandparents and families gathering to see how instruments work up close. We need more of this friendliness in our concerts.

By: Antoine Saito

Read at: The Montreal Gazette