Few composers have broader stylistic reach. But on a new album, “A Prayer for Lester Bowie,” he makes it all cohere. By Seth Colter Walls Oct. 15, 2021 It’s not a […]
Available Now! The fifth album to be released in the PENTATONE Oxingale series since PENTATONE and Oxingale Records joined forces in February 2015 combines two great masterpieces of […]
February 29, 2016 Massachusetts-born composer Luna Pearl Woolf returned to Washington on Sunday for a concert devoted to her music: two chamber works, a semi-operatic piece and excerpts from an […]
Cellist Matt Haimovitz and the vocal trio, “Voice,” have a devoted following. There was a surprisingly large audience at Hannaford Hall on Friday night, in spite of 10 inches of snow and icy roads. Most people stayed after the concert to meet the artists.
Haimovitz, one of today’s grand masters of the cello, is also known for his eccentric choices of repertoire and for performing in unusual venues. I saw him at the Odd Fellows Hall in Buckfield and at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit, where he played his own amazing version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.”
Now he is collaborating with “Voice,” founded in 2006 by Emily Burn, Victoria Couper and Clemmie Franks. The problem, as Hamovitz explained, was that there was no repertoire for cello and vocal trio (…)
The music by Wolff demonstrated a search for authentic Hawaiian chant and island instruments including the nose flute, warrior sticks and stone castanets. The effective use of these instruments represented a reach to pre-Western influence, even as we had a Western orchestra juxtaposed in this clash of cultures.
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.
Woolf might have done the music this way to allow for two Hawaiian compositions–the traditional “Kumulipo” (“Creation Chant”) and “Aloha ‘Oe”–to be featured. Queen Lili’uokalani was the English translator of “Kumulipo” and the composer of “Aloha ‘Oe.” The Dresser was impressed with how seamlessly and beautifully Woolf blended “Aloha ‘Oe” into the music ofBetter Gods, making this old chestnut new to the ear.
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.
Washington National Opera’s Better Gods brings a mostly unknown chapter in Hawaiian history onto the stage at the Kennedy Center, telling the story of Queen Lili’uokalani, the island nation’s last monarch, with dignity and high artistic values. I imagine the Hawaiian “better gods” are happy.
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.
This fascinating and heart wrenching story of Better Gods is a production worth seeing. The touches of Hawaiian authenticity, and the tremendous strength of the performers, make the new fascinating and heart-wrenching Better Gods from the Washington National Opera a powerful experience.
January 04, 2016 “It’s about what happens inside someone,” she said. “It’s about conflicts and inner turmoil that is emotional and can’t necessarily be captured in words alone. … There’s […]
I was told by Professor Hekmatpanah that I would be “dazzled by the pyrotechnics” Haimovitz would show off, but that is without a doubt an understatement.
“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.”
“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.”
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.