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.

 

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

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

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

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

All Things Strings: Montreal Chamber Music Festival: Bravo Beethoven

May 23, 2014

Montreal Chamber Music Festival: Bravo Beethoven

Thursday, May 22, 2014, St. George’s Anglican Church

It was billed as “Bravo Beethoven,” but it might just as well have been called “Bravo Denis Brott.” For even though the distinguished cellist, who founded the Montreal Chamber Music Festival 19 years ago and has since served as its heart and artistic director, was laid up at home with a bad cold, the music that was made at St. George’s Anglican Church on Thursday night was the ideal that Brott had envisaged: teamwork and technique, all combined into a series of performances that illuminated Beethoven with eloquent poetry and stunning beauty.

Throughout the evening, the phrasing was linked to a compelling musical flow in which violinist Giora Schmidt, violist Marcus Thompson, cellist Matt Haimovitz (subbing for Brott as if he had been the intended cellist all along), and pianist Angela Cheng explored the dimensions of the music with the kind of ensemble playing.           Continue reading