Proust Eats a Sandwich: Speakeasy cello

October 21, 2012

On Friday, there was no vibraslap in sight, though some talking of slapping a few of our fellow patrons at an unspeakable place down in the sea of warehouses in KC’s West Bottoms.

Cellist Matt Haimovitz played an impromptu set in the murky smoke swirl to a mixed crowd. Half were special invitees, half were just punk hipsters there for a cheap drink. This dichotomy was weirdly refreshing. Of course, I want people to understand and acknowledge the talent they were witnessing, but these very same hecklers also were a breath of not-so-fresh air from what I usually experience. Quite often, I attend a concert were some ticket-buying patron is acting like a total ass. Here, there were no pretentions.

Haimovitz was in town to play the following night for the Bach Aria Soloists’ Hauskonzert, but this appearance was organized at the last minute, a continuation somewhat of his 2000 “Listening Room” tour, wherein he played Bach suites in dive bars across the country, started the show with one such piece, the prelude from suite III.

This cello is older than the United States of America.

He’s also toured a set of works from living American composers and he played a piece by David Sanford, a nervous, busy work in reaction to 9/11.

Joined by violinist and BASer Elizabeth Suh Lane he played the Ravel Sonata for Violin and Cello. He preempted the run with some anecdotal program notes about the influence of Kodály and Debussy on Ravel’s writing. Other audience members were less interested and derisive shouts of “play something funky” were heard from off to the side. As far as violin and cello duets go, the Ravel kinda is, in a vaguely chinoiserie sort of fashion.

After the first movement, which was pretty stunning, the audience burst into applause. Now, there have been a million moments after a movement where I’ve wanted to applaud so, so badly and audience decorum has disallowed me, so that felt good. But then one dude in front started pleading ridiculously for another song. Haimovitz chuckled good-naturedly and said “we’re going to.” We clapped after every movement. And it was awesome.

This same fan pleaded with such volume and insistency for “just one more, for the love of God, one more” that it was difficult to gauge if he was sincere or just being a jerk, but either way we got an encore of the Beatles’ Helter Skelter. One chick (who I sincerely hope was drunk because she sounded like an idiot) asked conversationally during some quiet sustains “is it finished? … oh wait … it’s not finished … it’s not finished yet” before her friends quieted her, but he rocked the effects and gave a stellar performance of the work, complete with yelling Lennon’s “I’ve got blisters on my fingers.”

I can’t explain how happy this performance made me. Even the hecklers and idiots added something to the experience, the grittiness of it, the broken neon sign and the mounted marlin on the wall.  Great music isn’t defined by a polite audience and a concert stage, thank goodness.

by: Libby Hanssen

read at:   Proust Eats a Sandwich

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