The Chautauquan Daily: Haimovitz, Frank and friends play the contemporary classics

Steph Mackinnon/Steph Mackinnon - It’s been more than a dozen years since Matt Haimovitz first took Bach’s solo cello suites on tour across North America in untraditional venues, but he brought them back to Dumbarton Church.

August 6, 2012

For cellist Matt Haimovitz, everything is chamber music.

“Even when I play by myself, it’s schizophrenic chamber music. I’ve got many voices going on at the same time,” Haimovitz said. “I have to talk to people and have dialogue.”

Haimovitz has made a name for himself in the solo world, which can be more challenging for a cellist than a violinist. His childhood friend, violinist Pamela Frank, has her own prominent solo career, having traveled the world to appear with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Although the two went to different high schools in New York City, they were connected through their music.

“We would have chamber music parties at Pam’s house,” Haimovitz said. “We would read sextets and quintets. … The best way we partied was to read chamber music. And it was tremendous fun.”

Still partying, Haimovitz will join Frank and violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama and violinist Andy Simionescu to perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Logan Chamber Music Series.

Although solo careers have separated the friends, they now have the perfect excuse to reunite a few times per year within their careers.

“We play a lot of chamber music with different people, but I’ve known these players for almost a lifetime,” Haimovitz said. “We just love playing together. We grew up together, and this is just a great chance for a couple of days to get together and be together and make music.”

Because of the comfort afforded when playing with friends, the musicians are more open with one another, their rehearsals more straightforward, Haimovitz said.

“On the other hand, when you’re friends … all the emotions can run high,” Haimovitz said. “So if you disagree, the arguments can be bigger, too, because you’re more direct with each other.”

The concert’s program will begin with a Haydn quartet — a composer Haimovitz believes to be underrated next to Mozart and Beethoven — and end with a Beethoven quartet. The two quartets bookend two more modern pieces: A trio by Gideon Klein, and “Tiituri for Violin and Cello” by Romanian composer Adrian Pop.

Although the quartet will play Haydn and Beethoven, Haimovitz considers the program, in some ways, to be quite contemporary. Haydn, despite living in the 18th century, was an innovative composer.

There is a reason so many string quartets combine modern with classic. In an effort to keep tradition alive, artists look to composers such as Haydn and Beethoven. But there are composers alive today that continue their tradition. The music may seem at odds, but the pieces complement one another.

“When I go back to Beethoven and Haydn, I hear them differently. I experience them differently after having worked with contemporary composers,” Haimovitz said. “It affects how you hear the contemporary music. Suddenly you realize the connection to tradition there, and then you hear Haydn like it’s a brand new piece, as you should.”

Haimovitz said in this case, artists aren’t moving forward, but looking back.

“In our program, even though there’s no pop in it — no pop music — the Adrian Pop does incorporate folk music into the compositional process,” Haimovitz said. “And that’s something that Haydn and Beethoven were doing as well.”

The idea of knowing music’s vernaculars and incorporating those into the compositional process has been around for a long time, Haimovitz said.

The concert opens with Haydn’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No. 4.

“Haydn really was the breakthrough composer for the string quartet genre,” Haimovitz said, “constantly surprising you with what he does harmonically, structurally, texturally with the music. It’s really genius. And this quartet is just a real gem.”

Klein, a Czech composer and pianist, died at age 24 in the Holocaust. His String Trio was one of the last pieces he wrote while in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, where he helped to keep a small level of cultural activity alive.

A piece in three movements, the second movement reveals the pathos and hopelessness, while the two framing it are lighter and perhaps ironically playful, Haimovitz said.

“It’s a really beautiful work, but the heart of it is that slow movement,” Haimovitz said. “The circumstances of the piece are pretty haunting.”

Following the Klein trio is Pop’s “Tiituri for Violin and Cello.” After Haimovitz and Simionescu found out they had Romanian backgrounds, they commissioned the piece that incorporates Romanian and Hungarian folk styles. The quartet premiered the piece in New York City two years ago.

“It’s a real wild, kind of a gypsy piece in a way,” Haimovitz said. “Nobody in Chautauqua has heard it, I can guarantee that.”

The concert closes with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, “Serioso.” The piece falls at the end of his “Heroic,” or middle, period and is a window into later, more personal Beethoven, Haimovitz said.

“It’s incredibly condensed in that there’s not a note too many in the piece,” Haimovitz said. “He’s playing around with breaking down a regular sense of time, and how we experience time.”

Because Beethoven took steps in deconstructing the established 18th century norms of writing, Haimovitz said he considers him the first modernist composer.

“Some of this repertoire is just so glorious,” Haimovitz said. “When you can do it at a high level … I can think of no greater pleasure, or thrill or transcendent experience.”

By: Kelsey Burritt

View article at: The Chautauquan Daily

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