Time Out Chicago: Figment – CD Review

October 16, 2009

Photo by Martin Laporte

In the ’80s, a teenage Matt Haimovitz studied at Juilliard under the tutelage of Leonard Rose. In 2002, the Israeli-born cellist booked the first classical gig at New York’s renowned punk sweat-hole CBGB’s; sandwiched between bar bands on the bill, he played Bach. That should give you an idea of the sensibilities of a ferociously skilled player hoping to drag his instrument into the 21st century and hip rock clubs.

After cutting an album of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Haimovitz leaps boldly back to modernity with Figment. This collection of daring, unsettling solo cello work by young composers from around the globe centers around the titular piece by centenarian Elliott Carter. Fractured and full of contrast, “Figment” opens and sets the tone. Just to rankle the purists, a hip-hop DJ lays skittering beats and turntable scratches under the opening salvo.

The spellbinding 38-year-old makes the strings of his 1710 Matteo Goffriller whistle and rumble. The playing is recorded with rich texture; when he bows, you can feel it in your teeth. He summons a Balkan folk troupe with his fingertips when he plays pizzicato in “Vez.”

This is mostly a gloomy affair, filled with threnodies, but it’s not all darkness and doom. Ambient electronics lend a celestial, floating sensation to apocalyptic sawing and shrill sustains in “Les Vertiges de S.” Built upon color, solitude and sensation, the record proves there’s beauty to be found in a wasteland.

Haimovitz hits Schubas on October 31.

By Brent DiCrescenzo

View article at Time Out Chicago


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