THE CELLO SUITES According to Anna Magdalena

Liner Notes: 

The original manuscript of J.S. Bach’s 6 Suites for Cello Solo has been lost to history. Our only apostles are Johann Peter Kellner, an acquaintance of Bach, and Anna Magdalena, Bach’s second wife. Hers is a faithful copy of the original, her handwriting uncanny in its likeness to the composer’s own.

Both of these surviving manuscripts could have suffered the same fate as the original, were it not for the thirteen-year old Pablo Casals, who stumbled upon a published edition of the cello suites at a second-hand music store in his native Barcelona in 1890. Whether by divine design or sheer luck, one of the great artists of our era found these masterpieces buried at the bottom of a bin, at a time when they had all but disappeared from the cello canon. A sense of prophecy must have guided the boy, as even then Casals knew he had found a holy testament, unveiling a text with the most profound implications. Still, he had the sense of responsibility and humility to study and prepare this music for nearly twenty years before daring to present and share it with the public.

I was nine years old when my parents brought home an LP set of Casals’s now mythical recording from 1936 to 1939 of the 6 suites. At the time, in 1980, I was studying with the Hungarian cellist, Gabor Rejto, who had himself been a student of Pablo Casals. Gabor taught me to believe that Bach’s Cello Suites were my bible, the core of my cello studies. Each and every day, two movements of Bach were part of my diet, forming the foundation and substance of my understanding of music and my instrument. From 1985-1987 I had the privilege to play the very cello – made by Matteo Goffriller – played by Casals.

After my own first decade with these suites, I found myself intimidated by them, overwhelmed and confused by the number of different approaches to their interpretation. I owned dozens of published editions. Which one should I rely on to base my bowings and fingerings? Where does one begin to look for the hints as to tempi, dynamics, ornamentation? Must one play with discipline or spontaneity, strictly in time or with a fluid sense of rubato? What are the six suites, technical exercises, as was thought for hundreds of years, or philosophical ruminations on human nature, food for the soul? Are the dance movements simply formal structures on which Bach could hang his art, or were they intended for dances at the pub or in an elegant salon? There are so many layers and pathways to this music, how could one performance possibly reveal them all? I was lost in the labyrinth of decisions and possibilities. My instincts were no longer enough.

In 2000, the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death, I returned to The Cello Suites on the invitation of the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany. For the first time, I was asked to perform all six suites as a marathon cycle. Perhaps Casals’ 20-years rule applied, as I found myself finally ready to jump off this cliff. In preparation, I determined to lock up the dozens of recordings I had acquired over the years, and most of my published editions, leaving only the Bärenreiter edition of 1950, along with the Anna Magdalena and Kellner copies. I hoped to strip away all of the influences I had grown up with and approach these works from scratch.

Upon returning from Germany, feeling that I had finally found my personal voice, I embarked on my first recording of the suites, a 3-CD set released in late 2000 that launched the newborn Oxingale Records.

The recording process for me is a means of making something tangible and lasting within the ephemeral, abstract world of performance. But in a creative process, interpretations continue to evolve the minute a recording session ends, and nowhere is this more true than in Bach. Within a few years of my early Bach recording, I no longer recognized those interpretations. In my teaching and in my performances, more and more I turned to Anna Magdalena’s manuscript as particularly valuable, becoming increasingly convinced that hers is closest in spirit to the original. As I became more familiar with the notation, details emerged which inform interpretive priorities of bowing, articulation and tempi.

A brief history of the opening bars of Suite I’s Prélude is an example of how choices in bowing articulation can have a profound effect on the way a phrase speaks and breathes. When many of us experienced the first notes of Pablo Casals’ recording, we were mesmerized by the watery ripples of sound. Casals bowed each half-bar, eight sixteenth-notes to a bow.

A glance at the opening bars of Anna Magdalena’s manuscript clearly illustrates that the intention was to slur two or three notes leaving the rest to be individually articulated. What is not so clear is the placement of the slur, or rather the inconsistency of that placement. Many baroque specialists interpret it as a three-note figure, beginning the slur from the first bass note. The effect is a hypnotic drumbeat of the bass-pedal as the root of a triadic arpeggiation under a single bow. I too agree that there is a regularity to the underlying pulse in this opening. However, I believe Anna Magdalena’s placement of the slur in the first bar, beginning on the third sixteenth-note, was Bach’s deliberate intention.

To me, this solution, suggested in Anna Magdalena’s copy, establishes three independent voices – on an essentially one-voiced instrument – with three carefully-sculpted strokes of the bow. The upper voice, defined by the lower neighbor figure B-A-B in the first bar, is heard under one bow, bringing out an undulating melody. The bowing also offers the bass voice, here the pedal open G-string, its own distinct bow, and gives the player the opportunity to bring out the hidden middle voice (D-E-F#-G-F#) at will. In this way, from the outset, Bach lays out the parameters of a polyphonic texture for the solo cello.

The close investigation of Anna Magdalena’s manuscript, confirmed by the natural properties of the baroque bow, reveals that where separate notes are the norm and two and three notes to a single bow are common, many notes under one bow are rare, and used only for special effect. In the Allemande of Suite I, just prior to the first double bar, there is a thirteen-note slur beginning on the low E bass note. All those slurred notes give the impression of holding one’s breath. In the Prélude of Suite I, following the dramatic fermata, there is a sequence of long slurs, eight notes to a bow, within a cadenza-like moment. The effect is like a waterfall, a fountain cascading by step, seeking a way out of nature’s maze. For another anomaly, in the tripartite Prélude to Suite IV, look just past the disorienting leading-tone-of-the-leading-tone in the bass: Anna Magdalena slurs thirty-eight notes under a single bow! Suspended in a foreign harmony, a ghost-like hand leads us through the wilderness.

Little in the way of dynamics or tempo indications are revealed in the pages of Anna Magdalena’s manuscript. In all six suites, there are only four dynamic markings to be found, all in the opening bars of Suite VI. Of course, gradations of dynamic are implied throughout, giving shape to the rise and fall of lines, the intensification and resolution of implied harmonies. Contrasting dynamics create depth of field by establishing a hierarchy of independent voices, a sense of light and dark in what, on the surface, appears to be a sea of notes.

Nowhere in the Anna Magdalena manuscript is there a suggestion of how fast or slow the music is paced. Considerations of tempi can be influenced by many factors: the characteristics of the historical dance style, harmonic rhythm, proximity of one bass note to the next, density of counterpoint, the overall impulse and shape of the phrase. Anna Magdalena offers a clue in her use of cut time versus 4/4 in the time signature. The Allemandes of Suites I, IV, and V share a cut time signature, the bar divided into two moderate pulses, rather than a more constricted four. The Prélude of Suite IV is also in cut time, which helps connect and propel the relatively slow-moving harmonic progression, rather than drawing unnecessary attention to each individual eighth note. The difference in time signature of the two Bourrées of Suite IV confirms a change in character and tempo between the two movements, despite the shared key of E-flat Major; Bourrée I, in cut time, is frenetic in its energy, Bourrée II, in 4/4 is more restrained, perhaps even effortful. Most revealing, and missing in the older Bärenreiter edition, is the cut time of the French Overture-style Prélude of Suite V. This larger pulse helps create a bridge between the three fundamental pedal points of the movement (c-G-Eb),and allows for an elegant metric modulation with the ensuing Fugue (i.e. half note in the Prélude equals two dotted quarters in the Fugue).

Bach shows remarkable wisdom in celebrating the cello’s natural overtones. His choice of open-string key structures for the suites are no accident. Most are in the major and minor keys of G, D, or C. The exception is Suite IV in E-flat, which mutes some of those overtones, making it a greater challenge for the cellist.

Bach pushes the sonic boundaries further with Suite V, calling for an altogether foreign sound of scordatura tuning. A departure from the standard tuning of the instrument in fifths, Suite V calls for a fourth between the upper two strings followed by two fifths (G-D-G-C). The sound of the instrument darkens with the lowered A-string, enhancing the foreboding affect of the music. The double open G-strings lend increased sonic weight to the fundamentally important dominant of the key. A study of the notation in Anna Magdalena’s manuscript is irrefutable proof of Bach’s intent to use open strings far more than what is generally desirable in modern cello playing, as well as prioritizing string crossings over shifting in determining left-hand fingering solutions. The opening Prélude of Suite V sounds organic in first position, with not a single left-hand shift.

And finally, in Suite VI, Bach extends the virtuosic parameters of the cello, imagining an instrument with five strings, rather than the standard four. This innovation allows the cellist to reach into the higher registers with ease and navigate a rich palette of chords. The intended instrument of Suite VI is likely the cello piccolo, with the addition of an E-string above the A. Losing none of the cello’s resonant bass, it acquires a countertenor, or soprano voice, ethereal and haunting in its otherworldliness. I am grateful to my colleague Rebecca Humphrey, on whose original cello piccolo – an 18th century Georg Nicol. Köllmer – I had the pleasure to record Suite VI.

For the other five suites, my Matteo Goffriller cello made in Venice in 1710 – ten years prior to the composition of Bach’s Cello Suites – is set up with ox-gut strings from Italy. The tuning of the instrument is set to A=415, a half step lower than the current standard of A=440. The lower tuning and malleability of the gut strings allow for a longer natural resonance to each note. The bass notes, when drawn on a generous down-bow, can last for an entire bar or longer. Thus, even more than with modern strings, Bach’s mock-polyphony loses it’s “mock” and the illusion of sustained counterpoint is heightened.

One hundred years before Beethoven, before the design innovations of François Xavier Tourte and Dominique Peccatte, the concave shape of the modern cello bow did not exist, and the wood choice varied. The modern bow is designed to defy nature; the baroque bow embraces it. Articulations take on a consonant relationship to the vowel of the instrument’s resonance, and the interplay creates a grammar. With the nobile (strong) down-bow and the vilis (weak) up-bow, a sense of rhetoric emerges. For this recording, I commissioned the Cambridge, Mass. bowmaker David Hawthorne for a replica of a baroque bow, made not out of pernambuco but snake-wood.

A few years following my performance of the Bach suites in Schwetzingen, Germany, I received an invitation to perform the complete cycle at the renowned Bach Festival in Cöthen, Germany. It was in this small town, in 1720, that The Cello Suites were composed, when Bach was Capellmeister at the court of Prince Leopold. A productive time for Bach, who had the freedom to compose a wide range of chamber music and solo works for the court, Bach’s time in Cöthen was a rare period during which he was not directly associated with, or working for a church. I performed the six suites in the room where it is likely they were first performed, Prince Leopold’s Hall of Mirrors. In front of me sat a bust of the music-loving patron himself. Behind me, sharing the stage, stood the marble head of J.S. Bach. As I played I could not help but seek out the maestro’s visage in the mirror before me, and when I came to the Sarabande of Suite V, I could have sworn that it flickered to life. Was his expression one of approbation or alarm? I could not tell.

We must praise Anna Magdalena for her industry, perhaps her influence in ensuring the survival of these continually wondrous, challenging and transcendent works. No recording could possibly give voice to all the layers of meaning, all the wisdom to be found within them. With humility, and no small dose of courage, I continue on my journey with Bach and The Cello Suites, studying the gospel according to Anna Magdalena.

Thought Catalog: Music For Writers: Matt Haimovitz’s Cello Solos Go Into ‘Orbit’

August 13, 2015

Four Hours: ‘A Small Part Of The Repertoire’

You could do worse than play a 1710 cello made by the Venetian luthier Matteo Goffriller, but what Matt Haimover now is doing on that instrument can come very close to explaining what we mean by an author’s “voice” in writing.

  • He can stroll up on you with the walking-bass ease of a 1945 Luigi Dallapiccola adagio.
  • He can shimmy his bow way down into a slurry of nervous buzzes in Steven Mackey’s Rhondo Variations of 1983.
  • He can tell you “The source of all humor is not laughter but sorrow,” and then play Paul Moravec’s Mark Twain Sez second movement, “Humor,” pacing out a profoundly elegant clearing in his audience’s mind to hold just such a contradictory quip.

And all the while, you’ll know it’s him.

As when an accomplished author moves through the minds and vocabularies of a broad cast of characters, you never lose your grasp on this artist’s singular “voice,” even as Haimovitz works his way through four hours — yes, four hours — of solo cello performance.

Orbit, this three-disc set, takes its name from the Philip Glass 2014 meditation that opens it. We’ve just been writing here in Music For Writers about the remarkable, architectural genius for building a work that Glass brings to his music. And what Dennis Russell Davies and the Bruckner Orchester do for Glass’ Symphony No. 10,you now get to hear Haimovitz do for this lonely étude. Both men’s voices — Glass’ devastating primacy in construction and Haimovitz’s relentless drive of exploration — stand in gracious respect of each other.

Thanks to New York Public Radio’s 24/7 free contemporary classical Internet stream Q2 Music, you can hear it. Orbit is Album of the Week at Q2 Music, and it’s no wonder that Doyle Ambrust there writes of having “a cranium full of Matt Haimovitz.” One of the most intensive exposures to a single artist’s vast vocabulary to come along in years, Orbit is drawn from the years 1945 to 2014 and almost 25 composers. They include Jimi Hendrix (Anthem, 2002) and Luna Pearl Woolf (Haimovitz’s composer-partner) in an evocation of Paul McCartney and John Lennon (Helter Skelter, 1968)

In his notes, Hamovitz talks of the 20th century’s Tower of Babel with respect and good cheer, embracing “its boldness, diversity, complexity and its return to the natural order of harmony.” And what you hear as his own instrumental voice rises to unify this long conversation is a stamp of artistry coming into its own. The Oxingale label is one founded by Haimovitz, himself, and in December it became a partner of the Pentatone Music brand.

It’s thanks to Pentatone’s designers, in fact, that the album has its remarkable cover. Haimovitz tells me he doesn’t know where the photo comes from or what it depicts. But as you hear this work, you’ll realize that Pentatone is speaking Haimovitzian quite well: From an impossible height, several people gaze down on what looks like the 20th century itself, a vast city of sunlit ambition.

Marin Alsop. Image: Grant Leighton

Marin Alsop. Image: Grant Leighton

The dizzying eloquence of that shot is one of the first things Haimovitz and I talked about as I reached him in Santa Cruz. He was there for a performance on Saturday evening (15th August) in Maestra Marin Alsop’s Cabrillo Festival.

Haimovitz will headline with violinist Tim Fainan evening named for the West Coast premiere of Nico Muhly’sWish You Were Here. The program also features music of Missy Mizzoli (River Rouge Transfiguration, West Coast premiere); Sean Shephard (Blue Blazes, West Coast premiere); Hannah Lash (Eating Flowers, world premiere of a festival commission); and Glass — Haimovitz and Fain give his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello its West Coast premiere.

The Israeli-born artist (“HIGH-moe-vitz”) made his debut in 1984 at age 13 with Zuben Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, recorded for years with Deutsche Grammophon, and is a Grammy nominee whose friendly, easy bearing gives him a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor.

“Might sell more albums without my face on the cover, too,” he cracks, as we talk about the arresting cover shot for Orbit.

‘It’s Really A Singing Instrument’

On a windswept phone connection, typical of Santa Cruz, I opened our chat by telling him how very recognizable his cello-voice is becoming.

Matt Haimovitz

Matt Haimovitz

Thought Catalog: Matt, I’m reminded in listening to Orbit, that your technique is always attuned to what each composer wants, and yet I hear your “cellic” voice every time. It’s taken this long to develop that distinctive a personality as an artist, doesn’t it?

Matt Haimovitz: I appreciate that comment because in this day and age, there’s so much conformity and uniformity, it’s often very difficult to tell the difference [between one performing instrumentalist and another].

I used to play that game all the time, growing up as a teenager, with a collection of LPs…you’d put something on and have to guess who was playing, [Pierre] Fournier or [Leonard] Rose or [Pablo] Casals, whoever it was. These days, I’m not sure I could even tell them all apart. So your saying that means a lot, thank you.

“All these composers you hear on Orbit, you can tell, love that chameleon aspect of the instrument…It’s really a singing instrument.”
Matt Haimovitz

TC: I don’t think we’d actually know this, in fact, though, if you hadn’t done something like Orbit. If you hadn’t put so much diverse music together at once like this, I’m not sure we’d be getting this effect of saying, “My God, I can still hear Haimovitz, even in this and this and this piece. It’s an unexpected benefit from this project.

MH: With it all in one place, yeah. And it was never intended that way. It was intended as single albums. And we were trying to figure out how to put it all out and decided to put it together. And I think you’re right, there’s this scope to it. And amazingly, this is just a small part of the repertoire for cello. There’s great stuff throughout Europe, German composers, French composers, Asian — maybe this is the start of a longer term project. (He laughs with a tinge of exhaustion.)

You’re right, it’s great after 15 years of going project by project, to see so much of it in context and all in one place.

TC: And we don’t get it as well unless  you do solo work, too. I don’t think we can hear it as clearly. I don’t ever want to hear you with an ensemble again.

MH: (He laughs.) Don’t say that. But it’s true, when you think of soloists, you think of piano. And yet, starting with Bach and even before Bach, the overtones on this instrument are so rich that we can provide our own bass. You can always take away overtones, but you can’t add them. So all these composers you hear on Orbit, you can tell, love that chameleon aspect of the instrument. In a sense, we can accompany ourselves and we can play as high as the violin or flute or saxophone. It’s really a singing instrument .

TC: Like [the composer] Paola Prestini and [cellist] Jeffrey Ziegler, you and Luna Pearl Woolf can work together as composer and performer when you want to, right?

Luna Pearl Woolf

Luna Pearl Woolf

MH: Luna is one of six composers I’ve commissioned for a suite of overtures, one each, to the Bach suites, and I commissioned her for the sixth that I recorded on the cello piccolo. And she’s working on an opera for the Washington National.

TC: This is Better Gods, Luna’s opera based on Queen Liliuokalaniwhen Hawaii was annexed into the States, right? [The hour-long commission is part of the American Opera Initiative.]

MH: Right, it premieres in January. And she’s got some Hawaiian chant in the opera. And that chant was very similar to the motive in the Bach.  And when I pointed that out, that was it. So the piece is based on Hawaiian chant and some things in her opera.

TC: An overture to the sixth Bach cello suite with Hawaiian chant.

MH: Exactly.

TC: Can’t wait.

‘You Find A Way To Share It’

MH:  When we first started out in our relationship, Luna was so happy to have an advocate like me. And now, it’s almost a different story…doing this composition for me for the Bach was a bit of a relief from the really big form she’s working on with the opera.

TC: And with Luna’s composition career getting so big now and your career coming into this advanced stage, what do you find that you still feel you haven’t had a chance to do?

MH: You know,  I don’t really operate like that. At any one time, I’ve got lots of ideas and at any one time the challenge is weeding out some of those things and staying focused. I’m like a perpetual dreamer. At a young age, I could see connections between things that maybe you wouldn’t normally think of. That’s the way I’m wired. If I find something that’s engaging to me and I’m passionate about it, I want to see it all the way through. And I will it through. It sort of just works.

I don’t know what will happen in the next couple of years, but there are certain things, like Orbit. I never thought I’d have this kind of relationship with all these composers. As a 13 or 14-year-old practicing five hours a day, I never though I’d be recording [Gyorgy] Ligeti.

“It’s this idea that if you’re passionate about something, you stick with it and you share it. You find a way to share it.”
Matt Haimovitz

TC: And you know, when we hear about your debut at Carnegie when you were, what, 15? And you stepped in for Leonard Rose. Most of us would say, “Well, that’s when Matt realized he had arrived as a world-class musician.” Such a spectacular moment.

But really, it sounds like what you’re saying to me now and what we’re hearing on the Orbit album is a much deeper and richer form of coming into your own, a better understanding of yourself in the work, isn’t it?

MH: It is. And you know, it also has to just do with inhibitions. And embracing what is in front of you without fear. Absolutely. Not really worrying about what the trend is or what is popular. If I want to do something that would really sell, I’d go hook up with a drummer and a rock band.

But it’s this idea that if you’re passionate about something, you stick with it and you share it. You find a way to share it.

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.


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

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.


– 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.

– 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
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:
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 Please do not email submissions.



Triad Arts Weekend: David English, Mark Freundt, Hope Larson, Lemony Snicket, and Matt Haimovitz on Triad Arts Weekend

April 27, 2014

This week we revisit some of Team Triad Arts’ choice recent interviews, and get a musical look at this Earth Day Weekend. Guitarist David English is one of the performers at the Piedmont Earth Day Fair, and we’ll join him in conversation with David Ford, and learn about the art of building the cigar box guitar. Our celebration of Mother Earth continues with Mark Freundt. He’s conducting the 4th annual presentation of the Missa Gaia (Earth Mass). Then we’ll get a little silly & confusing with author Lemony Snicket – that is, if he even shows up. Mr. Snicket crafted the wildly popular “A Series of Unfortunate Events” novels, and now he’s inking out his peculiar craft in the world of detective fiction. We keep the pen close to paper with acclaimed graphic novelist Hope Larson, and a look at her adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time.” Then we wrap things up with acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz. Matt explores the sonic limits of the cello from Bach to Hendrix with indie rock detours along the way. … Continue reading

Minnesota Public Radio: “New Classical Tracks: ‘Angel Heart'”

October 16, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. —

“There! Do you hear it? There is a whispering of wings in the silence of the night. They’re coming. With features as white as snow, and faces as bright as the moonlight.


They come to chase the nightmares that gallop through the dark and to harvest the light of the stars. They spread it over roofs and beds and sleeping eyes And fill the night with music…” Continue reading

San Jose Mercury News: ‘Angel Heart’ star-studded adaptation comes to Cal Performances Oct. 6

October 7, 2013

Lullabies and bedtime stories are usually close to the top of the list of most treasured early childhood memories. Few things can comfort an infant or toddler into peaceful slumber as the voice of a parent or grandparent softly intoning “Rock-a-bye Baby” or “Brahms Lullaby.” Nowadays one can augment a child’s calming bedtime rituals by merely hitting the “play” button on a CD or MP3 player.

A trio of imaginative women combined their talents to create what might become a new children’s classic. Continue reading

The Whole Note: Review of Glass Concerto No. 2: “Early, Classical and Beyond Strings Attached – October 2013”

September 30, 2013

The terrific Matt Haimovitz is back with another fascinating CD, this time featuring the Cello Concerto No.2 “Naqoyqatsi” by Philip Glass (Orange Mountain Music OMM 0087). Long-time Glass champion Dennis Russell Davies provides excellent support with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Continue reading

Publishers Weekly: In Tune: Music Sparks a New Project from Cornelia Funke

September 24, 2013

What happens when a pair of music professionals set out to create a CD to share with their kids? In the case of composer Luna Pearl Woolf and soprano Lisa Delan, they enlist author Cornelia Funke, actor Jeremy Irons, and Mirada Studios to help them turn their vision into a multimedia storybook and interactive iPad app. The result is Angel Heart, a CD in mini-hardcover packaging being released September 24 by Oxingale Records. An app is set to follow in early 2014. Continue reading