Cape Cod Times: Cellist Matt Haimovitz takes offbeat career path

Matt HaimovitzMay 5, 2011

Matt Haimovitz plays cello in nightclubs, coffeehouses, dives and roadside joints. And also in concert halls, as he will Saturday and Sunday with the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra. A child prodigy who was once called “the greatest talent I’ve ever taught” by his teacher, the pre-eminent cellist Leonard Rose, Haimovitz, 40, has avoided the typical career path of the classical music cellist.

Haimovitz, who lives in Montreal, once undertook a 50-state tour of America, driving around in a van and playing solo cello in bars and offbeat locations, in an attempt to reach a different audience. He started his own label, Oxingale, which promotes not only his music but jazz players, poets and contemporary composers. He plays Jimi Hendrix on his cello, a 300-year-old instrument made by the Venetian master Matteo Gofriller.

But he still performs with orchestras in more traditional settings, and even then he places his own artistic stamp firmly on the proceedings – as he will when he plays Williams Perry’s “Jamestown Concerto” with the Cape symphony and maestro Jung-Ho Pak, part of the orchestra’s “Fabric of America” program.

Perry’s concerto is not heard that often. “I’m not really sure why,” Haimovitz says. “It’s beautifully scored for the cello, and the orchestration is rich and lush. I hadn’t played it before, but I’ve been very happy learning it.

“I imagine it hasn’t been played much because Perry is mostly known for his film scores and TV work,” the cellist says. “That’s still a problem for composers. When their work gets known for that, people don’t take them seriously in the concert hall. There’s such a division between the film composer and the classical composer, and there are very few who bridge the gap.

“But this concerto has a strong cinematic narrative, lots of beautiful quotations from traditional hymns, and a real sense of narrative and theater. When I think about this piece and the program, it seems very important to me to reach out to the audience in a direct way.”

A native of Israel, Haimovitz grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., until his precocious talent with the cello compelled his parents to move to New York for studies at the Juilliard School with Rose. A mentorship at the age of 13 with conductor Zubin Mehta and appearances with the New York Philharmonic launched the young cellist’s career.

He made his first recording at 17 and has performed with orchestras the world over. While Haimovitz is a master of the classics, his collaborations are far-reaching and defy categorization – including partnerships with jazz-rock guitarist Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and Uccello, a group of his McGill University cello students that recently performed at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

“I can play anywhere I want,” he says. “And I challenge myself with a new project each year. This year it’s a collaboration with Christopher O’Riley,” the pianist and host of National Public Radio’s “From the Top.” “We’re making a recording this June, with music from Janacek, Stravinsky and Piazzolla, but also tunes from Radiohead, Blonde Redhead and Mahavishnu. And then we’ll do a big tour as well.”

“And my cello turns 300 years old this year, so I’m doing lots of 300-year-old music for that, but also some new music for cello by composers like (Luigi) Dallapiccola. There’s always something going on.”

The Cape Symphony program, featuring American music that salutes the nation’s founders, also includes William Schuman’s “American Triptych” and two works from Aaron Copland, the suite from “Appalachian Spring” and “Lincoln Portrait.”

by Keith Powers

View article at Cape Cod Times

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