SF Examiner: Duo plays Beethoven as Beethoven would have wished

February 05, 2015
Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley play Beethoven on period instruments at the S.F. Conservatory or Music. - COURTESY  PHOTO

Rarely does an encounter with the past forever change a musician’s relationship with his instrument. But when Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz joined with pianist-NPR host Christopher O’Riley to perform and record Beethoven’s Sonatas and Variations for Piano and Cello on period instruments, he hardly expected that their move to authenticity would open an entirely new range of musical possibilities.When Matt, as he prefers to be called, outfitted his precious 1710 Goffriller cello with the same authentic ox-gut strings that were used in Beethoven’s day, and played them with a bow from Beethoven’s era, he discovered the changes were like night and day.

“I love the gut so much!” he exclaimed in a conference call with his duo partner. “Gut is so much more human to me, and it allows me so much more flexibility and range of attack and resonance. My fear with gut strings all along was that I was going to lose my voice. Quite the opposite has happened. More and more, I’m finding that the sound of gut strings is my ideal.”

That’s quite a switch for someone who wrote his graduate thesis on Beethoven at Harvard 25 years ago, and who has struggled ever since with the fact that, in Beethoven, a cello outfitted with modern metal strings does not balance well with a modern piano.

When the duo arrives at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on Tuesday night, Chris will play the same 1823 Broadwood fortepiano he used for the recording. On loan from the Beethoven Center at San Jose State, it’s very similar to the Broadwood in Beethoven’s possession. Tuning both fortepiano and cello a microtone lower than “modern pitch” will further replicate the sound that Beethoven heard in his head.

“There’s a whole world of color and articulation available when you’re not having to worry 80 percent of the time whether you’ll be heard or not,” says Chris of the period instruments’ superior blend. “If I had known 30 years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have had to deal with the fact that the modern Steinway’s bass, as much as I love it, is at complete odds with a lot of Beethoven’s music. On the fortepiano, the bass is still penetrating, but the upper, lyric registers are much more singing.”

Since Chris no longer has to hold back, and Matt no longer needs to struggle to be heard over a 9-foot concert grand, Beethoven’s music should flow in a manner seldom heard with modern instruments.

“When we play the slow movement of the last sonata,” says Matt, “I don’t think you have to know anything about music to just close your eyes and take in such a hauntingly beautiful sound world.”

IF YOU GO

Beethoven, Period

with Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley

Where: S.F. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10

Tickets: Free

Contact: (415) 503-6275, http://www.sfcm.edu

Read at: SF Examiner

San Francisco Classical Voice: From the Top Loves the S.F. Conservatory

February 4, 2015
Christopher O'Riley

Christopher O’Riley, photo by Edy Perez

 

It’s been a while, seven years, since the popular NPR musical talent show From the Tophas been back to San Francisco. The show is planning to tape a show at the S.F. Conservatory on Feb. 14.

The taping caps a week in which From the Top host Christopher O’Riley will be in residence at the Conservatory giving concerts with cellist Matt Haimovitz.

Unusually, this edition of the radio show will focus on performers from the Conservatory’s pre-collegiate division, including soloists 16-year-old cellist Elena Ariza from Cupertino; 15-year-old pianist Elliot Wuu from Fremont; and 14-year-old violinist Kevin Zhu from Cupertino. Conservatory alums Haimovitz and soprano Lisa Delan will premiere parts of the “music storybook” Angel Heart (based on stories by Cornelia Funke and with music by Luna Pearl Woolf) on the same program. Normally, the auditions for From the Top include a geographical region, so this is a little feather in the cap for the Conservatory.

The radio episode airs nationally on March 9. For tickets to the taping, call 415.503.6275 or visit this Conservatory website.

BY MICHAEL ZWIEBACH

Read at: San Francisco Classical Voice

The Seattle Times: Next at the Tractor Tavern: fortepiano and cello

CONCERT PREVIEW

‘BEETHOVEN, Period’

8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2, Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave N.W., Seattle; $20 (206- 789-3599 or tractortavern.com).

When two artists title their concert “BEETHOVEN, Period,” it’s reasonable to assume that they’re referring to Beethoven as the end-all and be-all of composers. Or perhaps they’re alluding to his pivotal position as the “bridge” composer between the classical and romantic periods.

While Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitzand pianist and NPR host Christopher O’Rileywould hardly dispute Beethoven’s compositional supremacy, the title actually refers to their exploration of his sonatas and variations for piano and cello on period instruments. In advance of the release of their double-disc high-resolution recording on Pentatone, the duo arrives at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle on Monday, Feb. 2, to perform Beethoven’s music as the composer expected it to be heard.

Haimovitz’s precious Goffriller cello, which dates from 1710, 60 years before Beethoven’s birth, will be outfitted with authentic ox-gut strings, just as in Beethoven’s day. His bow, too, will be from the same era. Sonically, these changes are like night and day.

“I love the gut so much!” Haimovitz exclaimed in a conference call that included his duo partner. “Gut is so much more human to me, and it allows me so much more flexibility and range of attack and resonance. My fear with gut strings all along was that I was going to lose my voice. Quite the opposite has happened. More and more, I’m finding that the sound of gut strings is my ideal.”

That’s quite a switch for someone who wrote his graduate thesis on Beethoven at Harvard 25 years ago, and who has struggled ever since with the fact that, in Beethoven, a cello outfitted with modern metal strings does not balance well with a modern piano.

O’Riley, in turn, will play an authentic fortepiano, whose sound Beethoven also had in mind. Tuning a microtone lower than “modern pitch” will further replicate the sound of Beethoven’s era.

“There’s a whole world of color and articulation available when you’re not having to worry 80 percent of the time whether you’ll be heard or not,” he says of the period instruments’ superior blend. “If I had known 30 years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have had to deal with the fact that the modern Steinway’s bass, as much as I love it, is at complete odds with a lot of Beethoven’s music. On the fortepiano, the bass is still penetrating, but the upper, lyric registers are much more singing.”

All of this talk may seem a little highfalutin’ for an evening in a honky-tonk bar, but Haimovitz has nothing but praise for the Tractor. At the forefront of musicians who brought classical to new audiences in nontraditional venues, he discovered the Tractor some years back when he played the Bach Cello Suites there. He’s been back several times since.

“It’s really one of my favorite alternate venues to play,” he says. “The people are really passionate about music. It’s great energy and a great, fun vibe.”

Since he no longer needs to struggle to be heard over a 9-foot concert grand, and O’Riley no longer has to hold back, their vibes, too, should be quite high. What better place to perform music that took the piano/cello combination to new heights?

“There’s a sense in these groundbreaking pieces that Beethoven is pushing the limits of what the instruments can do separately and together,” says Haimovitz. “When we play the slow movement of the last sonata, I don’t think you have to know anything about music to just close your eyes and take in such a hauntingly beautiful sound world.”

Jason Victor Serinus writes about classical music and high-end audio for publications worldwide. Reach him at jserinus@gmail.com.

By Jason Victor Serinus

Read at: The Seattle Times

LA Daily News: Upcoming classical music events in the Los Angeles area

January 26, 2015

“Crossover” has become one of the hot buzzwords of the music scene in recent years as classical musicians seek to broaden their horizons by moving into non-classical fare. Two of the foremost exponents of this phenomenon, pianist Christopher O’Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz, will showcase this concept on Thursday in CSUN’s Valley Performing Arts Center.

Rather than performing before an audience of up to 1,700 in VPAC’s Grand Hall or even in the 500-seat Plaza del Sol, O’Riley and Haimovitz will play to 200 patrons, who will be seated on the Grand Hall stage. The program — titled “Shuffle, Play, Listen” (the same title as a CD released in 2011) — starts at 7:30 p.m. and will feature music from such disparate composers as J.S. Bach, Igor Stravinsky, Radiohead and Arcade Fire.

Although O’Riley is one of this generation’s top pianists, he is perhaps better known as the host of the NPR program “From the Top” (6 p.m. Sundays on KUSC). Haimovitz, who made his debut at age 13 with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic and his recording debut shortly thereafter on Deutsche Grammophon with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony, mixes appearances at concert halls throughout the world with gigs at clubs and coffee houses.

By Robert D. Thomas

Read at: LA Daily News

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: 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 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

Coventry Telegraph: Celebrating pioneers of minimalism

April 4, 2014

A celebration of minimalist music takes place in Coventry this month when the Basel Symphony Orchestra calls in on the city as part of their first UK tour.

The orchestra will be playing three works hailed as “minimalist masterpieces” at Warwick Arts Centre on April 23, 7.30pm.

Under the baton of their music director Dennis Russell Davies, they will be performing three 20th century works: John Adams’s Harmonielehre, a dream-inspired score for large orchestra; Arvo Pärt’s These Words, a meditation for string orchestra and percussion on human foibles and delusions; and the European premiere of Philip Glass’s Cello Concerto No2, featuring Matt Haimovitz, an Israeli-born cellist now based in the US and Canada.

The Coventry concert marks the start of a UK tour in which the orchestra will focus on pioneering minimalists. It reflects the passion of Davies, an American conductor and pianist who first encountered minimalist works in the early 1970s and has become a champion of living composers and modern music.

He says: “This repertoire area has been part of my musical life for over 40 years. Philip Glass and I were considered the young upstarts of our generation back then. Now we’re thought of as the senior citizens!”

Hans-Georg Hofmann, the orchestra’s artistic manager, says: “It’s special for us to play this repertoire with someone who is so closely associated with it. Audiences will be able to trace the development of minimalist music from the Harmonielehre of 1985 to Glass’s recent Second Cello Concerto.

“This is a fantastic project for us and is part of the great adventure in sound we’re enjoying with our music director. “

Davies, in turn, praises his players. “They can handle anything written over the past 120 years and, for instance, really hold the intensity demanded by Glass and Pärt.

“It’s time now to introduce the orchestra to a wider audience, which is why I’m so looking forward to our appearances in the UK. I believe a large audience will want to hear our minimalist programmes.”

Tickets on 024 7652 4524.

By: Patsy Fuller

Read at: Coventry Telegraph 

Gazzettenet.com: Headliners: Matt Haimovitz, Christopher O’Riley at UMass FAC: Local Vocal Chord Bowl at NHS

March 28, 2014

Mixing it up

Cello virtuoso (and former Valley resident) Matt Haimovitz has long been a critic of what he calls the artificial and outmoded boundaries that divide classical and popular music, and with the emergence of the iPod generation — a listening public that mixes Mozart with Lady Gaga — he’s serendipitously discovered an audience in synch with his doctrine. Taking its title from media-player terminology, “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” Haimovitz’s new two-disc collaboration with Christopher O’Riley — a classical pianist similarly inclined to genre-jumping — interweaves an arrangement of film composer Bernard Herrmann’s five-part suite for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” with related pieces by Igor Stravinsky, Argentine tango composer Ástor Piazzolla and Czech composers Bohuslav Martinu and Leoš Janáček (disc one), then delves further into the mosaical (disc two) with a series of arrangements of works by various outre rock artists (Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Cocteau Twins) to create “a wonderfully diverse musical experience performed by two incredibly complex artists” (All Things Strings).

On Monday Haimovitz and O’Riley bring their Shuffle.Play.Listen tour to the UMass Fine Arts Center Concert Hall for a 7:30 p.m. show. The first half of the concert is pre-arranged; the second half will be programmed from the stage to allow the players to share contexts and permit the music to flow seamlessly from one genre to the next.

$15, $30, $40 general; $10 Five College, GCC, STCC students and youth 17 and under. There is a pre-concert talk with NEPR afternoon classical music host Walter Carroll at 6:30 p.m. at the University Club. 545-251, fineartscenter.com

By: Dan DeNicola

Read at: Gazettenet.com

Cleveland Classical: Preview: Tuesday Musical to present A Far Cry with Matt Haimovitz on March 11

March 7, 2014

Cellist Matt Haimovitz will be the featured soloist with the Boston-based chamber orchestra, A Far Cry, on the Tuesday Musical Series at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron on March 11 at 7:30 pm.

Haimovitz, who made his debut at the age of 13 with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, and his first recording four years later with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony, first appeared on the Tuesday Musical series in 1991. A Far Cry, a self-conducted ensemble, was founded in 2007 by “The Criers,” a collective of 17 young professional musicians who intended to develop an innovative, rotating leadership both on and off stage.

The Akron concert will include two works by Luigi Boccherini, his Quintet in C, subtitled “Night Music on the Streets of Madrid,” and his Cello Concerto in C. Haimovitz will also be featured in the first performance of Luna Pearl Woolf’s arrangement of Bloch’s Prayer from Jewish Life, and the orchestra will complete the program with Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and Janáček’s Idyll. Continue reading