Audiophile Audition – BACH: The Cello Suites (complete, Anna Magdalena manuscript) – Matt Haimovitz, cello – Pentatone (2 discs)

Haimovitz gives thoughtful and well-considered performances of these seminal works in resonant sound that captures his baroque cello and cello piccolo (Suite 6) in terrific sonics. I won’t harp yet again on the felicities of recording solo and small ensembles in surround sound—often more than the largest Mahler symphony, these sorts of settings benefit from the finest sound, allowing the most subtle of expressions to come across as if one was sitting directly in the presence of these artists in the most intimate of listening spaces.

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Parterre Box – Throne Away

Offering something slightly more substantial than the 20-minute pieces shown last month, WNO premiered Better Gods, an hour-long work by composer Luna Pearl Woolf and librettist Caitlin Vincent on Friday evening. The subject is the fate of Queen Lili’uokalani, last monarch of Hawaii. In 1898, Lili’uokalani attempts to repudiate the U.S.-friendly constitution inherited from her predecessor and shore up Hawaiian sovereignty.

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BWW Opera World – BWW Review: BETTER GODS Soars at the Kennedy Center

Ms. Woolf’s gorgeous score is underlined by the use of traditional Hawaiian chants and her score utilized authentic instruments like the nose flute, Kala’au (percussive sticks), and Ili’ili (castanets), that are native to the island. Ms. Woolf’s score also uses Queen Lili`uokalani’s famous composition, “Aloha ‘Oe”, sung in gorgeous counterpoint by soprano Ariana Wehr.

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Primephonic – Anna Magdalena’s Faithful Copy

“In Matt Haimovitz’s impressive almost-two-and-a-half hour recording, we are taken on a journey through the dances most of us may have heard on separate occasions, one suite a a time, or programmed as stand-alone movements, but rarely had the opportunity to experience in such a neat unit. This rarity is a very special must-have for this reason. The album is full of Haimovitz’s personality, with distinctive expressive flourishes and quirks.”

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Gramophone Magazine – Album Review: JS BACH Six Solo Cello Suites, BWV1007-1012

“Haimovitz brings a beguiling lightness to the line that propels the listener from the sunny serenity of the Prelude to the moto perpetuo of the final Gigue, despite the deceptively complicated harmonic structure of that Suite as a whole. This, in turn, allows the almost preternatural control he displays in the Sarabande of the Fifth Suite to unravel it with all the desolation of a melodic line that has no hint of that previous complexity, and create the impact it should – as a profound statement of emotional isolation.”

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Strings Magazine: Matt Haimovitz Returns to the Solo Suites and Intimate Venues

Given his commitment to connecting with his audience, Haimovitz chose a unique way to share this passion with his listeners. He has commissioned preludes to the Six Solo Suites, created by contemporary composers from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. “It’s a way to bring these suites into the 21st century,” he says, “to have living, breathing composers grapple with the materials, Bach’s musical building blocks, and find their own take on it.”

The six composers bringing contemporary vitality to Bach are Philip Glass, Luna Pearl Woolf, Du Yun, Vijay Iyer, Roberto Sierra, and Mohammed Fairouz. Haimovitz has encouraged them to draw on folk melodies, just as Bach did in his day. As we spoke, the pieces were still being written, and Haimovitz’s excitement and anticipation is contagious.

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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: J. S. Bach, The Cello Suites According to Anna Magdalena, Matt Haimovitz

“For all that we get Haimovitz’s total artistry, a deep resonance to the cello not heard quite like this in standard versions, and an expressivity that is very palpable and rugged at times, without a romantic sort of rubato so much as a baroque one, which is to say that the sort of bravura of the post-Beethoven cello is replaced by a different sort of emotiveness, born of the resonance of the open strings and a restrained vibrato, with the up-down bowing dynamics of the flat bow and the phrasing of Anna’s version suggesting a performance of great clarity and zest. There is a rough-hewn, exuberant beauty to it all. And not a stitch of sentimentality.”

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