The Whole Note Editor’s Corner : PRIMAVERA I: the wind

Written by: David Olds June 30, 2021

One of the greatest challenges of editing DISCoveries is always how to do justice to as many of the fine recordings that come our way as we can. Never more so than this past pandemic year, when more artists have focused on recordings in the absence of live performance opportunities. Although we have been able to increase the number of reviews in each edition, there is still a wealth of material we could not get to, with “truckloads [more] arriving daily” to borrow an advertising slogan from the now defunct Knob Hill Farms supermarket chain. 

As Stuart Broomer notes further on in these pages, “Though it’s no exchange that one might choose, the COVID-19 lockdown has often replaced the social and convivial elements of music with the depth of solitary reflection.” 

This has certainly been the case for me, and likely also explains the number of solo projects that have crossed my desk in recent months. You will find them scattered throughout the DISCoveries section, but I have set aside a few of them for this column. 

One of the most ambitious is cellist Matt Haimovitz’s PRIMAVERA PROJECT, the first volume of which is now available: PRIMAVERA I: the wind (PentaTone Oxingale Series PTC 5186286 theprimaveraproject.com). THE PRIMAVERA PROJECT was inspired by the “multi-layered musicality” of German-American artist Charline von Heyl, her “whimsical imagination intertwined with literary and historical references,” and by Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting Primavera. The project’s co-founders, Haimovitz and Dr. Jeffrianne Young, asked von Heyl if she would ever consider reimagining the Botticelli painting for the 21st century, and discussion about the idea of commissioning new cello works inspired by the artwork began. Less than two months later, days before the pandemic lockdown, von Heyl had completed her Primavera 2020. Haimovitz says “The musical commissions of THE PRIMAVERA PROJECT celebrate our golden age of musical diversity and richness. Each new piece – like the blossoming flowers, figures, and symbols of von Heyl’s and Botticelli’s Primaveras – has been a ray of light, offering us hope for renewal of the human spirit.” There are 81 commissioned works, all based on the paintings, and this first volume includes 14 of these. With influences from the world of jazz and Latin music, Vivaldi and Scriabin, the music runs the gamut of contemporary styles. Highlights for me include inti figgis-vizueta’s the motion between three worlds, a rhythmic piece reflecting the composer’s Andean and Irish roots, Vijay Iyer’s reflective Equal night which includes an occasional nod to Bach’s iconic cello suites, the dramatic  by Roberto Sierra and Lisa Bielawa’s otherworldly Missa Primavera; but all of the tracks have something to recommend them. Haimovitz is in top form no matter how many challenges the music throws at him. PRIMAVERA II is scheduled to be released this fall. For more details about the project and upcoming in-person and virtual performances visit the website.

Read it at The Whole Note

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