Montreal Gazette: Concert preview

February 9, 2017

Theft is not the only misfortune that can befall a venerable Italian instrument. Last week Matt Haimovitz, who plays Bach’s Cello Suites this weekend at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, reached for a score in his home studio and lost his balance.

Down he went, as did his 1710 Matteo Goffriller. Happily, Haimovitz managed not to fall on the cello, but it still suffered a snapped neck and an assortment of lesser fractures.

Haimovitz flew to New York with his ailing Goffriller the next day.

“It’s in good hands. Someone who has known my cello for years and years,” the McGill prof assured me early this week. “He said I was lucky in my bad luck. The break was very clean and everything is totally reparable.”

The less happy news is that the reconstruction will take six to eight months, which is a long time to go without a companion you have made music with for decades.

“It’s so individual, so personal,” Haimovitz said of the loss. “You feel you have no voice.”

Haimovitz tried a few potential loaners in New York, including a 19th cello by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the most acclaimed of French luthiers.

No dice. Too light, too nasal. “I’m sort of used to old Italian instruments,” Haimovitz said. (Goffriller, 1659-1742, was the founder of the Venetian school.)

He did find a Giovanni Tononi (Bologna, c. 1640-1713) from the 1680s that reminds him of the 1662 Amati used by his teacher, Leonard Rose. It is somewhat larger than the Goffriller and more baritonal in sound.

Haimovitz was planning to test drive a few cellos in Quebec before making a final decision about which instrument he will use at the MMFA and for subsequent performances in Los Angeles, the State University of New York at Purchase (outside New York) and the University of Connecticut.

“It will be something good,” he assures us. “But it won’t be the Goffriller.”

The program remains unchanged: Bach’s Six Solo Cello Suites with specially commissioned “overtures” by living composers.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, Haimovitz delivers the Suites No. 2 (2 p.m.), No. 3 (3 p.m.) and No. 4 (4 p.m.) with starters by Du Yun, Vijay Iyer and Roberto Sierra. These free mini-recitals happen at different levels of the newly opened Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace.

On Sunday, Feb. 12, Haimovitz settles down in Bourgie Hall and plays Suites No. 1, No. 5 and No. 6 with overtures by Philip Glass, David Sanford and Luna Pearl Woolf. No. 6 and Woolf require a violoncello piccolo, a smaller five-string cousin of the cello.

While the Glass overture is relatively orderly and Bachian, the other new pieces incorporate jazz, Sufi and Hawaiian influences. You can hear them coupled with the Preludes of the Bach Suites on Haimovitz’s Juno-nominated Overtures to Bach recording on the Pentatone label.

Tickets to the Bourgie Hall recital cost $14.56 to $26.96 via


By: Arthur Kaptainis

Read at: Montreal Gazette

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