The Jewish Week: Hearing A Jewish Downbeat

February 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: George Robinson
Read at: The Jewish Week

Minnesota Public Radio: Interview: Matt Haimovitz

February 6, 2014

St. Paul, Minn. — Matt Haimovitz is helping the Minnesota Sinfonia celebrate its 25th anniversary season with a series of concerts Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Haimovitz was also Steve Staruch’s guest Thursday afternoon.

Haimovitz and Staruch had an opportunity to chat about the featured work on the Minnesota Sinfonia program, Ernest Bloch’s “Schelomo, a Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra.”

By: Steve Staruch

Read and listen at: Minnesota Public Radio

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

South Florida Classical Review: Cellist Haimovitz a late addition to New World concert

January 15, 2014

This weekend’s New World Symphony concert just got an extra bit of added star power.

Cellist Matt Haimovitz will perform the cello part in Gyorgy Kurtág’s Double Concerto for Piano, Cello and Two Chamber Ensembles at the New World Symphony Saturday night.

“What an amazing piece the Kurtag is!” said Haimovitz. “I did not know the Double Concerto. It’s an ingenious and complex microtonal score with each soloist in charge of an ensemble within the orchestra.

“I would have agreed to play it in Siberia….but I’ll take Miami.”

The “Sounds of the Times” concert, which will be conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw, will also include Kurtág’s …quasi una fantasia…, Ligeti’s Double Concerto for Flute and Oboe, and Bartók’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin. Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at New World Center, Miami Beach.

By: Lawrence A. Johnson

Read at: South Florida Classical Review

The Detroit News: Artists reimagine classical music for a contemporary audience

January 8, 2014

This weekend, the Chamber Music Society of Detroit presents a pair of noteworthy concerts with a couple of first-rate, and deliciously unconventional, musicians.

Christopher O’Riley, in addition to being an accomplished classical pianist, hosts “From the Top,” NPR’s popular radio showcase for young musicians (not currently heard in the Detroit market). Every week on the show, he plays a brief interlude going into the show’s station break. One day, having run through the gamut of Chopin preludes and Bach inventions, he decided to try something different. When he’d finished, the show’s announcer came on saying, “That was Christopher O’Riley, our host, playing ‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead.” Continue reading

Detroit Performs: Shuffle. Play. Listen. Christopher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz with Chris Felcyn

January 8, 2014

Pianist Christopher O’Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz will be appearing in concerts sponsored by the Chamber Music Society of Detroit this weekend. On Thursday, Jan. 9 at 3 p.m. they’ll be guests of Chris Felcyn on The Well-Tempered Wireless program of WRCJ 90.9 FM. Tune in and find out which Jimmy Stewart co-star has become a big fan of their music. Continue reading

O'Riley's Liszt - Blu-ray Video/Audio Disc

Christian B. Carey: O’Riley’s Liszt

December 27, 2013

File under best CDs of 2013

O’Riley’s Liszt
Christopher O’Riley, piano

During the past decade, Christopher O’Riley has been quite busy, hosting From the Top, concertizing, and recording his adaptations of pop songs by Radiohead, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith.  But he hasn’t released an all-classical CD since a Scriabin disc in 2004. That is, until 2013, when his two-CD recording of music by that barnstormer of barnstormers and finger-buster of finger-busters, Franz Liszt, saw the light of day. Continue reading

San Jose Mercury News: Best of 2013 classical

December 20, 2013

We’re constantly hearing that classical music is in a state of crisis: struggling orchestras, aging concertgoers, a weakened recording industry. Sometimes I think it’s all a crock, or at least a substantial exaggeration. Whatever the challenges, the music is stubborn and continues to thrive in many ways. This year, like every year, I received many dozens of new classical recordings. Here are 10 that should stand the test: old works, new works and new works commenting on old works with affection and humor.

1. Hilary Hahn, “In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores” (Deutsche Grammophon): The violinist commissioned 26 new works from 26 composers — a bonanza of repertory, created in one fell swoop. (She also held a contest to find a 27th, and wound up choosing from among more than 400 submissions.) Brilliantly performed by Hahn and pianist Cory Smythe, the results are on these two discs — a grab bag of treasures. The composers include David Lang and David Del Tredici, Mason Bates and Lera Auerbach, Nico Muhly and film scorer James Newton Howard. I’m right now obsessed with Avner Dorman’s “Memory Games,” a sort of mad, mazelike tango that might have been conceived by Conlon Nancarrow.

2. Christopher O’Riley, “O’Riley’s Liszt” (Oxingale): I love the way pianist O’Riley moves from fascination to fascination with each new recording. This double-disc feels like a concept album: nothing but Liszt transcriptions of works by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner (“Prelude and Liebestod”) and (the pièce de résistance) Berlioz, whose “Symphonie fantastique” is rarely heard in this titanic version for solo piano. It unfolds like an ancient exploration, straight to the scaffold and the “Witches’ Sabbath.” Continue reading


BBC Music Magazine: Review of Philip Glass Cello Concerto No. 2 ‘Naqoyqatsi”

December 12, 2013

This Concerto grew from music Glass composed in 2001 for Naqoyqatsi, his third collaboration with the innovative documentary director, Godfrey Reggio. Glass had completed his first Cello Concerto (dedicated to, and premiered by, Julian Lloyd Webber) shortly before, but it was not until a decade later that he decided to turn the film score into a ‘proper’ concerto. I’m familiar with the first films in the trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi but haven’t seen Naqoyqatsiapparently its images were largely digitally created. And Glass wanted to composer ‘a very acoustic piece that could be played by a real orchestra’. Continue reading