Norwalk Citizen: From Bach to the Beatles, cellist set to blur boundaries at Silvermine

April 10, 2013

In this cyber age, it is relatively easy to see all manner of recorded classical music performances online, from virtuosos fronting world-class orchestras to small ensembles filling intimate spaces. Rising stars perform in community halls and school auditoriums. Promotional trailers offer snippets of what audiences can expect.

Over the years, these offerings have increasingly shown performances taking place in unlikely settings, such as bars and nightclubs. Often, such novelty has inspired musical pairings of different genres and new arrangements and interpretations of popular songs.

Back when Matt Haimovitz was traveling around the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in 2000 with his cello, this kind of crossover appeal was novel. He gained wide attention for his Bach “Listening-Room” tour, which featured stops at clubs and nightspots where he treated those gathered to Bach’s cello suites. Three years later, he set out for his 50-state Anthem tour, which celebrated living American composers. It was during this tour that audiences first heard his interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.”



He has long championed new music, commissioned pieces (including six preludes to the Bach suites he hopes to commission in the next season or two), and brought a fresh approach to the classical music with which he grew up.

This Montreal-based virtuoso, who made his debut with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic at the age of 13 in 1984, is comfortable in larger performance venues, too. But, given his instrument is known for its intimate sound and the effect it can have in smaller spaces, he is looking forward to his solo appearance at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan on Sunday, April 14. The last time he appeared there was in 2005.

“Silvermine is the exact way to hear a program like this,” he said of his “Beyond Bach” concert.

He will spotlight the Bach suites, as well as American composers, including a piece by the late Elliott Carter; Ned Rorem’s “After Reading Shakespeare”; a selection by Westport native John Corigliano; “Seventh Avenue Kaddish (for solo cello)” by David Sanford (the two worked together on the jazz-influenced Grammy-winning 2010 album “Meeting of the Spirits” on Haimovitz’ label Oxingale Records); and Luna Woolf’s arrangement of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

Though this season has him playing in large theaters, he said he wants to bring that sense of intimacy, connection and immediacy that he found in the clubs to all of his performances.

“That experience changed me forever,” he said.

He said he was always aware that as a musician, he needed to play before the masses to keep the music alive.

“Otherwise, you are dealing with a dead tradition ” just notes on a page,“ he said. ”It takes a human being to produce that music and a human being to receive and respond to that music.“

The very technology that drew fans to his earlier work now poses a challenge, he said.

“With little effort, we can get anything we want on iTunes, any information we want and any music we want,” he said. “That changes everything.”

He said it can be more difficult to draw people out. Yet, he said such knowledge (and the easy access to it) can heighten the live music experience. It has led to audiences that are more educated, receptive and open, he said.

When he is not touring, teaching students at McGill University in Montreal or performing with his all-cello ensemble Uccello, you might find him sharing the stage with Christopher O’Riley in support of the duo’s 2011 CD, “Shuffle.Play.Listen.” It melds classic with the contemporary, including arrangements of songs from such groups as the Cocteau Twins.


Haimovitz said such diversity is necessary for him as an artist and a performer.

“My solo work is a big part of what I do. I love that ” but I do need a variety,“ he said.

By Christina Hennessy

Read at: Norwalk Citizen; 203-964-2241;

Silvermine Arts Center, 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan. Sunday, April 14, 4 p.m. $20 nonmembers; $15 members. 203-966-9700, Ext. 22,

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