The New York Times: Classical Playlist: Beethoven, Shostakovich, Tigran Mansurian and More

May 15, 2014

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

‘AKOKA: REFRAMING OLIVIER MESSIAEN’S QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME’
David Krakauer, clarinetist; Matt Haimovitz, cellist; Jonathan Crow, violinist; Geoffrey Burleson, pianist; Socalled, electronics
(Oxingale)
This brilliantly inventive recording pays tribute to Henri Akoka, the Algerian-born clarinetist who egged on Messiaen to compose when both were prisoners of war in a German camp during World War II. Framing a vivid rendition of the “Quartet for the End of Time” are two musical flights of fancy, an improvisation by the extraordinary clarinetist David Krakauer, and an electronic remix of the quartet by Socalled. (Fonseca-Wollheim)

Read at: The New York Times

JohnMontanari.com: Album du jour: David Krakauer, Matt Haimovitz, et al., “Akoka”

May 11, 2014
Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time

Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

On the cold and rainy night of January 15, 1941, in the unheated Barrack 27 of Stalag VIIIA in Görlitz, Germany, an audience of some 400 prisoners-of-war and guards listened in rapt silence as four musicians, performing on ramshackle instruments, gave the first performance of one of the great chamber works of the 20th century.  While it is doubtful that even the most devoted practitioner of historically-informed performance would want to recreate the premiere of Olivier Messiaen’s “Quatuor pour le fin du temps” (“Quartet for the End of Time”), this amazing backstory adds even further resonance to a work of stunning originality, power and spirit.  (For the full story, Rebecca Rischin’s “For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet” is highly recommended.)

What’s that?  You’ve never heard Messiaen’s Quartet?  Well then, you’re in for an extraordinary musical experience, one which will grow with each hearing.  In eight movements, variously scored for one, two, three or all four instruments, Messiaen combines his favorite preoccupations, such as birdsong, rhythmic and melodic symmetry, synesthesia (e.g., musical rainbows) and fervent, sentimental Catholicism into perhaps this incredibly original composer’s most accessible large-scale work.  Not for nothing has the Quartet appealed over the years to audiences steeped in psychedelia, mysticism, minimalism, new age philosophy, eastern religion and just about every other alternative life- or musical style associated with adventurous youth.

On their splendid, just-released 2008 live concert recording (with violinist Jonathan Crow and pianist Geoffrey Burleson), clarinetist David Krakauer and cellist Matt Haimovitz have framed the Quartet with a works that pay tribute to the remarkable clarinetist of its premiere, an Algerian Jew named Henri Akoka.  As prologue, the four musicians collaborate on a mostly-improvised, electronically-enhanced piece (credited to Krakauer) called “Akoka,” transforming elements of the Messiaen into a Klezmer-ish lament and dance filled with clarinet smears, cello scrapes (much like those Matt Haimovitz employed in his celebrated version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Anthem”), scratchy violin off-beats and strummed piano strings.

For the epilogue, Canadian producer Socalled (Josh Dolgin) “merges live samples of the musicians with old radio broadcasts, hiphop, cantorial singing and markers of time…” into a piece called “MEANWHILE…”  Of all the album’s ten tracks, this will probably age least well, especially its rapped passages.  For the present, it’s a stimulating modern commentary on a great musical work.

But it’s the performance of the Quartet that commends and rewards most of our attention here.  Not that there aren’t excellent alternative versions in the current discography, but this one can take its place with the best of them for both individual and ensemble excellence.  To cite just a few examples:  The quiet central passage of the 2nd movement, “Vocalise, for the Angel Who Announces the End of Time” has rarely been as mesmerizing.  David Krakauer’s superb rendition of the 3rd movement clarinet solo, “Abyss of the Birds,” is filled with personality, subtly reminding us that for all its mellow mellifluousness, the clarinet was also the instrument par excellence of the red light district, the shtetl and the Roma encampment.  And Matt Haimovitz’s modulation of both tone color and vibrato in the sublime 5th movement duo, “Praise to the Eternity of Jesus” are wondrous to hear — artistry of the highest order.

Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is best experienced live — what great work isn’t?  In the meantime, and for keeps, this fine, imaginative CD is highly recommended, and will fit right into your shelf next to your Mahler, your Moby, your Moondog and your Mozart.  At least that’s where it is on my shelf.

By: John Montanari

Read at: JohnMontanari.com

The Hailifax Herald: Bach’s Goldberg Variations: the brain boils

June 11, 2010

Wednesday night’s Scotia Festival concert in the Sir James Dunn Theatre exhausted the attentive listener with, among other things, exhilaration. The big piece on the program was a transcription for  string trio of the Goldberg Variations, one of the keyboard repertoire’s all-time masterpieces.

It’s a funny thing about Bach. His music is at least as good as a cup of strong Continue reading

Joe’s Wine: What wine to pair with Bach?

January, 25, 2010

Our good friends Mark and Sandra invited  me to Montreal’s Bach Festival…for a wine tasting! A very intriguing concept – what wine to pair with Bach’s Goldberg Variations?

Not a concept really, as research has shown that music can affect our appreciation of wine. Well, eXcentris, Matt Haimovitz and sommelier Nicolas Charron Boucher took this research to heart, enlisting Nicolas to pair wine with Continue reading

Isthmus: My favorite concerts of 2009, in Madison and (slightly) beyond

December 30, 2009

Stark, startling and challenging. Matt Haimovitz with Du Yun, Oct. 30, Café Carpe, Fort Atkinson
Music clubs come and go, but little Café Carpe has prospered for 24 years as a premier showcase for singer-songwriters and folksingers. (All praise to owners Bill Camplin and Kitty Welch!) But this was different — an evening of avant-garde classical music with Continue reading

Voir: Matt Haimovitz et Luna Pearl Woolf Classiques eXcentriques

November 5, 2009

Photo by Martin Laporte

Le violoncelliste Matt Haimovitz et sa partenaire, la compositrice Luna Pearl Woolf, réinventent le rituel du concert avec la nouvelle vocation d’eXcentris. Air frais.

J’ai rencontré Matt Haimovitz pour la première fois en 2006, alors qu’il venait de faire paraître son disque Goulash! (Oxingale Records), sur lequel il joue avec le grand guitariste jazz-rock John McLaughlin, l’ensemble de musique méditerranéenne Constantinople et DJ Olive, entre autres. On trouve sur ce disque du Bartók et du Ligeti, mais aussi du Led Zeppelin Continue reading

Montreal Mirror: Wine bottles, wedding bells and warrior women

November 5, 2009

Photo by Martin Laporte

The exciting eccentricities of November’s classical music programming at eXcentris

McGill music professor and renowned cellist Matt Haimovitz—who now adds artistic advisor and artist-in-residence at the recently repurposed eXcentris to his CV—has made it his mission to expand the parameters of classical music, what it is and who it’s played for. In that spirit, his latest album, Figment, covers a good part of Continue reading

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

J. S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

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Oxingale Records brings you J.S. Bach’s timeless and beloved Goldberg Variations, performed by the acclaimed trio of cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinist Jonathan Crow and violist Douglas McNabney.

The trio’s 2007, Juno-Nominated album: Mozart the Mason was called Continue reading

Mozart the Mason

Mozart the Mason

Mozart the Mason

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Jonathan Crow, violin, Douglas McNabney, viola, Matt Haimovitz, cello
with artwork by Michael Kuch

In celebration of W. A. Mozart’s 250th anniversary year, Oxingale Records presents Mozart the Mason. Released just 3 days before the composer’s January 27th birth date, this tribute includes performances of one of Mozart’s most important chamber works, the seldom heard Divertimento for String Trio, K 563, as well as three Continue reading