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 

GazetteNet.com: 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.

By: MARK MORFORD

Read at: Gazettenet.com

The Examiner: Oxingale presents a stunning context for Messiaen on its latest release

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

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

Yesterday Oxingale released a new recording with a somewhat intimidating title, Akoka: Reframing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. This title definitely deserves points (and probably extra credit) for truth in advertising. It refers to Henri Akoka, a Jewish clarinetist who met Messiaen on the way to Stalag VIII-A, the prisoner-of-war camp to which Messiaen was sent when he was captured by the German army in June of 1940. While they were in transit to the camp, Messiaen worked up sketches for a clarinet solo that he showed to Akoka. Those sketches would eventually become the “Abîme des oiseaux” (abyss of birds) movement of his “Quatuor pour la fin du temps.” Once at the camp, Messiaen and Akoka met the violinist Jean le Boulaire and the cellist Étienne Pasquier. Messiaen wrote a short trio for clarinet, violin, and cello from which the full quartet eventually emerged and was first performed at the camp (“outdoors and in the rain,” as its Wikipedia page observes) on January 15, 1941 with Messiaen taking the piano part.

On this new recording the performers are Geoffrey Burleson on piano, David Krakauer on clarinet, Jonathan Crow on violin, and Matt Haimovitz on cello. It is, to say the least, one hell of an interpretation, combining connotations of highly free improvisation (as in “Abîme des oiseaux”) with the rhythmically demanding unison for the entire quartet in the “Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes” (dance of fury, for the seven trumpets), requiring the utmost precision for the required uniformity. However, in the midst of all the technical demands lies some of Messiaen’s most visceral efforts at composition. While this is probably a reflection of the composer’s deeply-felt commitment to the Catholic religion, I have previouslyconsidered the possibility that the entire composition is based on a misreading of the tenth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Thus, it is better to approach this music as a series of reflections of apocalyptic visions without worrying about whether or not those visions can be traced back to the New Testament.

In that respect this new recording establishes a context for Messiaen’s quartet that has more to do with the circumstances surrounding the original performers than with Messiaen’s personal articles of faith. It begins with “AKOKA,” which is an almost entirely improvised composition by Krakauer. This suggests (not necessarily accurately) that at least some of the passages that Messiaen composed may have been inspired by his listening to Akoka, le Boulaire, and Pasquier improvising on their respective instruments. It is thus at least remotely possible that “AKOKA” honors a significant precedent, since much of the music that Alban Berg composed for the violin part in his concerto emerged from his listening to improvisations by the violinist who commissioned the concerto, Louis Krasner.

Adventurous as “AKOKA” may be, as a prelude it is a bit modest in comparison with the postlude, entitled “MEANWHILE….” This is the work of Socalled, which is the name that composer Josh Dolgin assumes when he is working as a “beat architect.” The music (and, yes, I have no problem with calling it “music”) is a collage that mixes live samples of the four Messiaen performers with old radio broadcasts (news reports of the Nazi advances during the Second World War), hip-hop, Jewish liturgical incantation, and the steady beats of “markers of time.” Particularly impressive is when Socalled inserts an incessant club-scene beat behind that homophonic “Danse de la fureur” movement. On the one hand this mix affirms the precision with which that music was being played; but, at the same time, it refracts the apocalyptic denotations of the score through a jazzy lens, making for a provocative distortion of Messiaen’s original conception.

Haimovitz has been quoted as saying that the intention of the full program for this recording was to lift Messiaen’s quartet “out of the polite confines of a normal chamber music performance.” He and his colleagues have succeeded admirably; but it is worth noting that they are not the only ones inspired by this “mission statement.” Here in San Francisco in February of 2011, four of the musicians in Nonsemble 6 (originally formed by students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to prepare a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 21 Pierrot Lunaire) performed Messiaen’s quartet in the Red Poppy Art House surrounded by eight paintings (one for each of the quartet’s movements) by Olivia Lam. Just as Messiaen’s score amounts to a highly individual reading of New Testament scripture, so can performances of this music reflect equally individual readings through other uses of auxiliary media.

By: Stephen Smoliar

Read at: The Examiner

The Buffalo News: Listening Post: Future Islands, Bob Dylan tribute, Avi Avital, Dinara Alieva, Hafez Nazeri, Oran Etkin and ‘Working Man’s Poet’

March 30, 2014

… Avi Avital, “Between Worlds” (Deutsche Grammophon). You have to smile, hearing Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances played on mandolin, accompanied by accordion and harp. That’s what mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital means about being between worlds. (Though the Romanian Folk Dances do sound quite at home on the mandolin, which sort of stands in for a balalaika.) Avital has great sidemen, led by Richard Galliano on accordion. They are warm and witty and unconventional – sort of like Buffalo’s Skiffle Minstrels, I thought now and then. only with a more Eastern European slant. They trade witty duets in a Piazzolla piece and fill a traditional Bulgarian dance with an infectious joy. The music tends to gather speed, gradually, like the music you hear at the Greek Festival. The mood grows more reflective with Ernest Bloch’s “Nigun” and a traditional Welsh melody, “Hen Ferghetan,” which begins with extreme delicacy and features Catrin Finch on harp. The thread that holds this disc together is that all the composers represented – also including Manuel de Falla and Hector Villa-Lobos – were all inspired by folk music. Avital and his friends help you see why. ΩΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)

Hafez Nazeri, “Rumi Symphony, Project Untold” Performed by Nazeri and the Rumi Instrumental Ensemble and various artists including cellist Matt Haimovitz, violist Phil Neubauer and percussionists Glen Velez and Zakir Hussain under Nazeri’s direction (Sony Classical). How’s this for musical ambition? What the great Iranian composer and vocalist and instrumentalist wants to do with his Rumi Symphony Project, he says, is “spark a musical fusion so convincing and so different that it demands a new name.” It incorporates “the singular voice of the Persian mystical poet Rumi with the harmonic structure of Western Symphonic music, signaling the integration of distinct musical traditions into a new form and identity, a new beginning.” Nazeri has sold out Carnegie Hall with his music, and when you hear the power and beauty of what he is trying to do here (which is way beyond previous Eastern/Western musics by, say, Ravi Shankar) you’ll have no confusion why. I wish there were translations of Rumi’s poetry in the notes, but it’s marvelous, no matter.ΩΩΩΩ (Jeff Simon)…

Read at: The Buffalo News

 

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

The Economist: Musical instruments on planes: Air with a G-string

March 12, 2014

Matt HaimovitzWHEN Matt Haimovitz (pictured), a concert-hall cellist, travels, he is accompanied by CBBG Haimovitz. That’s Cabin Baggage Haimovitz—Mr Haimovitz’s cello.  “When I was a teenager, my strategy was to sneak my cello onto the plane, smile nicely at the flight attendants and hope that they’d put it in the overhead bin,” says Mr Haimovitz. “It worked around 50% of the time, but the other times they’d tell me that I had to check it, and I couldn’t face it going in the hold, so I started paying for a seat.”

As a well-paid soloist, Mr Haimowitz is lucky that he can afford such a luxury. Others must take a risk. “Seeing your instrument going up the conveyor belt, you don’t know whether you’ll be able to play it after you arrive,” says Ray Hair, president of the American Federation of Musicians. It is a situation that legislators are trying to remedy. Last month, the European Parliament passed a bill requiring airlines to accept smaller instruments such as violins in the cabin. The bill now goes to the European Council, which represents the EU governments. Organisations such as the Musicians’ Union in Britain are backing the idea. It says the current patchwork of rules leads to confusion. Musicians can leave a country on a flight where one regulation applies to instruments, only to find the rules on the return leg are different.

Two years ago, the US Congress instructed the Department of Transportation (DoT) to write a directive requiring airlines to store instruments in overhead bins. Larger instruments weighing less than 165 lbs (75 kg) should be allowed in the plane if the owner buys an extra seat, Congress ordered. But even though the department’s deadline passed last month, the DoT hasn’t even begun writing the rules. IATA, the trade association for the world’s airlines, is relieved. It says that carriers should remain free to set their own prices and policies for onboard musical instruments.

So airbound instruments still face an unknown fate. While most airlines allow small instruments, such as violins, as part of the carry-on baggage allowance, some count it as a second piece of luggage and charge for it. Others, such as Ryanair, only allow smaller instruments in the cabin, and then only if the owner has paid for an additional seat.

On some airlines, owners of large instruments can request they be put in a heated section of the cargo hold. But even though today’s cases are sturdy, the instrument can arrive damaged. When Suzanne Bizet, a Maltese music teacher, booked a ticket to travel to Madrid for a concert, her low-cost airline informed her that she would have to buy an extra seat for her violin. Instead Ms Bizet bought a decent replacment on eBay and had it shipped to Madrid. After a particularly heavy-handed inspection by airport security staff in San Francisco, Timothy Spears, a double-bassist, decided always to travel by car instead. At a recent music competition, one participant went for a more unconventional option still: he left his cello at home, hoping that a member of the resident orchestra would lend him one. A kind player did.

Until the law speaks clearly, musical instruments and aeroplanes will remain an uneasy pairing. Airlines, desperate to cut costs wherever possible, are unlikely to go out of their way to accommodate musicians, especially those flying economy class. But musicians rely on air travel for their livelihoods. As a drummer, Mr Hair always has to put his drums in the cargo, and so far they have survived unscathed. “But it shouldn’t be down to luck,” he says.

How to identify instruments, meanwhile, remains an additional issue for legislators to address. In an age when each seat occupant requires documentation, travellers like CBBG Haimovitz—and Mr Guitar, and Mr Cello, as some musicians call their companions—pose a challenge. And while some airlines issue boarding passes to instruments, others don’t. Yet despite all the hassle, instruments on airplanes sometimes add a humane note to an often-monotonous activity. On a recent trip, a flight attendant asked Mr Haimovitz if he might like to perform a piece in the skies. To the delight of fellow passengers, he got up and played.

By: E.H.B.

Read at: The Economist

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

Shuffle.Play.Listen

CBC Music: Classical crossover that doesn’t suck, from Punch Brothers to 2Cellos

March 6, 2014

Don’t let anyone tell you that classical crossover is lacking in any sort of artistic merit. At its best, this unfairly victimized genre of music can be just as moving and expressive as the traditional classical music you hear in the concert hall.

Classical crossover has gotten a sour reputation from a few bad apples who tried just a little too hard to be cool. Crossover’s reputation is so bad that many crossover artists despise the label, despite fitting perfectly into the definition of combining classical with other genres.

CBC Music has your guide to classical crossover that doesn’t suck. Hit play on the YouTube playlist below to hear the best of the unfairly maligned genre, then click “open gallery” above to start the guide.

Read and watch at: CBC Music

By: Michael Morreale

Matt Haimovitz

Kingston Whig-Standard: From Bach and Stravinsky to Arcade Fire

February 28, 2014

Like the selections he plays, cellist Matt Haimovitz likes to sometimes veer off the traditional path.

For example, around the turn of the century, Haimovitz embarked on his Bach Listening Room Tour, which saw him eschew concert halls and the like in favour of playing in jazz clubs and rock venues across the continent.

“I wanted to reach out to an audience that wasn’t coming to the concert hall,” Haimovitz said Wednesday over the phone from Tucson, Ariz., where he had been performing the night before. “I wanted to play music that was really important to me that wasn’t being presented in a concert hall.”

While the tour made sense to Haimovitz — he first thought of redefining what it meant to be a classical musician when he was doing his undergrad at Harvard University and noticed that no one his age was in the audience — it didn’t to others. Continue reading

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

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

Available in-store and online on April 1st

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY
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“A shatteringly beautiful performance of Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time.’”

-The Jewish Week

In this reframing of Olivier Messiaen’s masterpiece Quartet for the End of Time, clarinetist David Krakauer — praised internationally for his ability to play in a myriad of music genres with “prodigious chops” (The New Yorker) and “soulfulness and electrifying showiness” (The New York Times) — and musical pioneer cellist Matt Haimovitz — described as “one of the leading cellists of his generation” (The New York Times) and “intensely sensitive and perfectly poised (Gramophone Magazine) — have created a recording and live concert experience of great emotional power. Continue reading