Music review: As Haimovitz and O’Riley shuffled and played, the audience gladly listened

April 2, 2014

The distinguished cellist Matt Haimovitz returned to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Monday, together with the brilliant pianist Christopher O’Riley, with“Shuffle.Play.Listen,” an unusual (if not eccentric) concert before a full house in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. Both musicians were faultless in their playing, and O’Riley was perfect as an accompanist even when the music demanded heavy chords and fortissimo passages full of brilliant scales and arpeggios. He is known as the host and accompanist of NPR’s Sunday program “From the Top,” and his career has included transcriptions of rock music and jazz, as well as the classical canon.

Haimovitz, well known in western Massachusetts (he once lived in Northampton, and was on the UMass faculty), has, like the eminent cellist Yo Yo Ma, played in what used to be considered unusual settings, such as bars and clubs. He has, like O’Riley, been a pioneer in extending the range of his instrument’s literature from the classical canon to rock and jazz. The audience could expect an extraordinary mix of classical, pop and jazz pieces, and they were not disappointed.

The performers did not always announce what they were about to play nor was there a printed program. As the word “shuffle” in the concert’s title implied, the order of the pieces was both unusual and unexpected. The only piece to suffer from this was Beethoven’s “Twelve Variations on a Theme of Mozart,” which seemed austere in its setting between modern pop pieces. Here O’Riley played with lucid delicacy and Haimovitz switched, as it were, to a more restrained style.

The concert began with music from 1958, composed by Brian Herrmann for Alfred Hitchcock’s film masterpiece, “Vertigo.” It continued with a song by the British rock band Radiohead, performed with intense emotion by Haimovitz.

Next, the duo performed the cello sonata in C major composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1949, a time for Russians of the joy of liberation from the war and sadness for the damage and immense loss of life that it caused.

Both musicians were fully engaged in this difficult work, playing as one, yet allowing each to come forward brilliantly when the music demanded. This work was the central piece of the program in scale and substance, and the most satisfying.

There followed a contrasting piece by the Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, who died in 1992. His music was devoted to the tango, whose style he extended to what he called the nuevo tango, with its rich counterpoint of contrasting rhythms and harmonies, energetically played, an invitation, it seemed, for the audience to get up and dance.

In addition to the Beethoven, the second half included a very energetic piece (not announced) that showed off the brilliant bowing of the cellist. Later there was an exceptionally gentle and beautiful piece, “Orchard,” by Philip Glass.

To end the concert the performers turned to the music of John McLaughlin, a virtuoso guitarist, now in his 70s. In the 1970s McLaughlin had formed a small orchestra called Mahavishnu, a name sometimes used by McLaughlin and indicative of his interest in and use of Indian music. A single hearing was not enough to gauge the depth of this captivating music.

For their encore the players chose “In the Backseat,” a song from the Canadian rock group Arcade Fire. True to the song’s lyrics — “I like the peace / In the backseat / I don’t have to drive / I don’t have to speak / I can watch the countryside / And I can fall asleep” — the selection brought a quiet and peaceful ending to the concert.


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Steph Mackinnon/Steph Mackinnon -  It’s been more than a dozen years since Matt Haimovitz first took Bach’s solo cello suites on tour across North America in untraditional venues, but he brought them back to Dumbarton Church.

The Washington Post: Cellist Matt Haimovitz brings Bach to Georgetown’s Dumbarton Church

January 26, 2014

It’s been more than a dozen years since Matt Haimovitz first took Bach’s solo cello suites on tour across North America in nontraditional venues. On Saturday, he brought them to Georgetown’s Dumbarton Church, where he presented the six suites — split in two back-to-back performances — in a refreshing old-meets-new light. Continue reading

South Florida Classical Review: de Leeuw and guests serve up fascinating Hungarian program with New World Symphony

Janurary 19, 2014

In Saturday evening’s Sounds of the Times program , “Double Double,” the New World Symphony provided a musical overview of three major Hungarian composers: Béla Bartók, György Ligeti, and György Kurtág. Guest conductor and contemporary music champion Reinbert de Leeuw led soloists from Ensemble Modern and the NWS fellows in a fascinating survey spanning the 20th century. Continue reading

The SunBreak: From Bach to Heavy Metal, Simple Measures Celebrates All Things Cello

November 27, 2013

Head bobbing and curls flying, Matt Haimovitz plays the cello like a rock star, leaning into his instrument to conjure forth a bold sound that captures your attention. A jack-of-all-trades in the classical music world, the Montreal-based cellist’s career is full of star-studded collaborations (among them Philip Glass, Isaac Stern, and Mstislav Rostropovich, to name a few) but also marches to the beat of his own drum. He was the first classical musician to play at New York’s notorious punk rock club CBGB and currently leads Montreal’s all-cello ensemble, Uccello, performing a repertoire that spans from Bartók to big band. Continue reading

Opus One Review: The Ontario Philharmonic and Cellist Matt Haimovitz Make Must-hear Music in Koerner Hall

November 6, 2013

The Ontario Philharmonic led by Marco Parisotto is developing into a must-hear orchestra. Maestro Parisotto has shaped his players into a fine music-making instrument, fully capable of supporting the outstanding soloists they invite. Last year this time, in Koerner Hall, the Ontario Phil spread a gorgeous tapestry behind Shlomo Mintz for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. This year, it was cellist Matt Haimovitz they accompanied in Ernest Block’s unique ‘Hebraic Rhapsody’ Schelomo. Continue reading

Musical Toronto: Concert review: Titanic pleasures from Ontario Philharmonic and Matt Haimovitz at Koerner Hall

November 5, 2013

Cellist Matt Haimovitz prepares to perform with the Ontario Philharmonic on Tuesday night at Koerner Hall (John Terauds phone photo).

Cellist Matt Haimovitz prepares to perform with the Ontario Philharmonic on Tuesday night at Koerner Hall (John Terauds phone photo).

The Ontario Philharmonic made a powerful statement in the first of this season’s concerts at Koerner Hall on Tuesday night, emphatically reminding us that this is no poor cousin of Toronto’s finest symphony orchestras. Continue reading

San Francisco Classical Voice: Magical, Magnetic Angel Heart

October 6, 2013

After all the hundreds of musicals that have gone down the pike, take heart, there are still unlimited ways to tell a story in music. A very different way of telling, Angel Heart, charmed its first audience, of adults and children (lots of them) in UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall last Sunday afternoon. Continue reading

NDSU Spectrum: Haimovitz, O’Riley Swirl Centuries of Music at MSUM

September 25, 2013

There is so much more to a cello than meets the eye. Anyone considering this stringed instrument may stereotype it as low and slow, but cellist Matt Haimovitz proved its power in his recent collaborative concert with classical pianist/NPR host ChristopherO’Riley at Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Gaede Stage on Sept. 19. Continue reading

Montreal Gazette: Something for everyone at classical marathon

August 18, 2013

MONTREAL — “Programme, programme.” No, this was not the Expos rally at Jarry Park. This was the Cool Classical Journey in Place des Arts, where you could tell neither the players nor the pieces without the souvenir program being hawked in the main concourse by OSM volunteers in good voice.

There were 30 concerts in about 28 hours, many in the Cinquième Salle. Continue reading

La Presse: Vireé classique: un succès de foule et d’estime

August 18, 2013

On se souviendra de cette Virée classique comme de celle des rencontres inoubliables: Pressler, Dumay, Hewitt, Armstrong et bien d’autres. Véritable succès d’audience avec plus de 20 000 participants, c’est également une réussite sur le plan musical grâce à des concerts de très haute qualité. Continue reading