February 16, 2012
Matt Haimovitz didn’t pay much attention to popular music growing up.
But as one of the best-established concert cellists of his generation, he has since picked up knowledge.
It started by getting to know classical music of the past century, often directly from the men who wrote it, like Gyorgy Ligeti, who died in 2006.
“When I started playing 20th-century music and working with composers, they became my teachers,” said Haimovitz, 41. He is particularly grateful to his principal teacher, Leonard Rose, “who emphasized sound production, and provided the tools that gave everyone a chance to go in his own direction.” (Those students included Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell.)
Haimovitz’s direction has included such performing innovations as his “Listening Room Tours,” solo cello gigs in unconventional places, such as Northside club Birdy’s, which usually hosts rock musicians. He played there in August 2002 — his last Indianapolis appearance — performing Bach suites.
He makes the usual rounds of soloing with orchestras — he first appeared in Central Indiana in 2001, playing the Boccherini concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at Conner Prairie — but the Israeli-born cellist is substantially known for putting his music where you might not expect it.
On Feb. 16 it can be heard at the Tobias Theater as part of a tour with pianist Christopher O’Riley, nationally known as host of “From the Top,” NPR’s showcase for promising young classical musicians.
O’Riley brings to the duo arrangements of pop tunes, including songs by Radiohead, Cocteau Twins and Arcade Fire. The men mix this into their concerts, along with movie music by Bernard Herrmann and classical selections by Leos Janacek and Igor Stravinsky, among others.
The program will be drawn from “Shuffle. Play. Listen,” a new CD on the Oxingale label. The title is a salute to the iPod, which in 10 years has changed how we listen to music, Haimovitz said. The audience targeted ranges across generations and listening habits: “When you have younger members of the audience, it affects the chemistry — there’s an excitement in the air. When we dive into Radiohead songs, you’ll hear howling and whistling in the audience. You have a different kind of experience.”
Then there are the classical fans who have no idea what Haimovitz and O’Riley are up to with such songs. “It’s amazing how many people in the audience have not heard Radiohead and Arcade Fire,” he said. “There’s always a few very skeptical people at the start of the program.”
O’Riley’s familiarity with the songs is much more extensive than the cellist’s, but Haimovitz brings a zest for exploration to his part of the show.
“After all the music that I’ve done . . . I still daily learn about my instrument,” Haimovitz said. “The best a good teacher can do is give you a foundation and the tools and nurture your own curiosity. From there you just have to challenge yourself in each different situation.”
by Jay Harvey
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