Ottawa Citizen: Chamberfest review: Matt Haimovitz and Friends

August 9, 2012

Matt Haimovitz is an American cellist who has a resume comparable to those of other leading cellists, but with a difference. In addition to his concert activities as a soloist and chamber musician, he has made a name for himself playing in unconventional venues. A few years ago, for example, he played the complete Bach Cello Suites at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield.

Wednesday evening found him in a more conventional venue, Dominion-Chalmers, with three musical colleagues, husband-and-wife violinists Pamela Frank and Andy Simionescu and violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama. Their program included string quartets by Haydn and Beethoven along with the music of two lesser-known composers.

It began with Haydn’s Quartet in D, op. 20, no. 4. The individual playing was excellent and the sense of ensemble was good, even if didn’t always sound like the work of a long-standing string quartet. The second movement, a theme-and-variations, was especially well thought out.

Next came the 1944 String Trio of Gideon Klein, a Moravian-Jewish composer who died in a concentration camp just months before the end of the Second World War at the age of 25. He spent most of the war in Thieresenstadt, the “model camp” for Jewish artists. It was there that he wrote his String Trio. Two weeks after finishing it, he was deported to Auschwitz, thence to Furstengrube where he died.

The Trio was the second item on Wednesday’s program. It’s a dark, concentrated and moving work and received an expert reading at the hands of Simionescu, Ngwenyama and Haimovitz.

Although works for violin and cello are not terribly common, the combination is often congenial, as in Tilturi by the contemporary Romanian composer, Adrian Pop. It’s a fascinating amalgam of clearly Romanian motifs and the repetitive construction that became so widely used in the 70s and 80s. Simionescu and Haimovitz really threw themselves into it, delivering it in the most exciting terms.

The program ended with Beethoven’s Quartet in F minor, op. 95, nicknamed Serioso. If the musicians didn’t achieve the almost transcendent unanimity that we hear with quartets like the Shanghai or Borodin, their rendition had the feel of greatness about it. There were countless insights throughout, with a special emphasis on the slow movement.

By: Richard Todd

View article at: Ottawa Citizen

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