January 28, 2021
By Jeff Kaliss | From the January-February 2021 issue of Strings magazine
Speaking from his home in Montreal, Canada, Matt Haimovitz readies himself for a chilly afternoon of kid-friendly soccer with daughters Maya and Nessa while preparing for the release of Mon Ami, Mon Amour, a tribute to his restored 1710 Goffriller cello. It’s a “concept” album, a bouquet of French music, and the latest release on Oxingale, the label founded 20 years ago by Haimovitz and Luna Pearl Woolf, his composer/producer wife.
Oxingale came to life “around the end of my exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, with whom I’d been recording for a dozen years,” says the cellist. He’d done a series of solo recordings of contemporary European works for the venerable label, but “they didn’t know what to do with them, in terms of marketing,” and they hadn’t afforded Haimovitz enough interchange with the living composers, which is vital to him.
Equally important, and rare on major labels, is a spirit of lightheartedness, reflected in his label’s portmanteau name. It derives from a legendary remark by writer and philosopher Voltaire at a cello concert, where the 18th-century wise guy is said to have told cellist Jean-Louis Duport, “Sir, you will make me believe in miracles, for I see that you can turn an ox into a nightingale!”
Haimovitz and Woolf’s creation found a model in artist-run, singer-songwriter labels, and followed their example of actively supporting releases with touring. After Oxingale’s debut with a set of Bach cello suites in 2000, the cellist “went on the road and played in coffee houses and rock clubs and jazz clubs, very much inspired by the indie-music scene.”
There was pushback from managers and other music-biz stalwarts. “They said that I was ‘bringing down the brand’ and diminishing the quality of the music. But it actually had the opposite effect.” Oxingale found itself quite able to sell albums and attract new and younger fans, while continuing to defy convention. In 2011, the label garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album for Meeting of the Spirits, a recording made with Uccello, Haimovitz’s cello ensemble. Recently, Oxingale has been nominated for a 2021 Grammy for Luna Pearl Woolf: Fire and Flood, which also features Haimovitz.
Not binding himself as an artist to his own label exclusively, the cellist has also recorded several tracks with singers for the Dutch-based Pentatone label. Encouraged by Lisa Delan, one of the participating sopranos, Oxingale formed a partnership with Pentatone, in which, as Haimovitz puts it, “we’ve offered them a fresh perspective on the repertoire, and a big financial burden has been removed from us,” including the basics of packaging, marketing, and international distribution.
Read the full original article on Strings Magazine.