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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back-Room Bach

Matt Haimovitz Dept: We haven’t seen as much of the peripatetic cellist since he began teaching in Montreal a few years ago, but he’s still breaking boundaries, redefining the notion of classical-music performances. Here’s a piece I wrote in advance of his appearance at the similarly innovative Club Helsinki, before it moved from Great Barrington, Mass., to Hudson, NY.


The two major classical-music turn-offs of the present age seem to be the lack of relevance most of the music enjoys and the sterile environs in which it’s typically presented. Cellist Matt Haimovitz, a who won early acclaim as a prodigy, eases into his 30s with an antidote to both of those problems: Get it out of the stuffy concert hall and the music will speak for itself.

Matt Haimovitz | Photo by Harry DiOrio
This Wednesday (Aug. 21) he begins his latest Listening Room Tour at Great Barrington’s Club Helsinki (284 Main St.), where his 8:30 PM program features the first three (of six) suites for solo cello by Bach.

Quite a switch for an artist whose previous Berkshires gigs have been at Tanglewood.

Haimovitz studied with legendary cellist Leonard Rose, whom he replaced at short notice to play the Schubert String Quintet in C Major at Carnegie Hall (with no less a contingent than Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich, Shlomo Mintz, and Pinchas Zukerman) – and this was when Haimovitz was 13! He has gone on to perform and record with the major orchestras for the major labels, but always with a sense of the grass-roots nature of musical communication tugging at him.

A champion of contemporary works, he has performed and recorded much of the 20th-century cello literature. But the Bach suites are a bulwark of the cello literature, and Haimowitz decided to champion not only the works themselves but also their accessibility by distributing his indie-label recording of them in unusual retail venues (the recording has been nominated for an Indie Award by the Association for Independent Music and won a Just Plain Folks Award for Best Classical Recording of 2001) and performing them in places where you’d otherwise expect to hear blues and folk and the like.

Not only is he introducing the works to new audiences – he’s also bringing his own audience into the comfort of these venues. As the Boston Globe observed, it’s “by all accounts the first time a classical musician of stature has ventured outside the hallowed halls of conventional concert venues on a national scale.”

The current tour will wind through the midwest (he’ll share a stage with Dar Williams in Madison, Wisconsin) before he hits England next month; he continues in October to tour the western U.S. before finishing back in Massachusetts.

Club Helsinki is a very comfortable, slightly eccentric adjunct to a fine restaurant just off Railroad Street in Great Barrington, where other performers this month include John Hammond and Olu Dara. Tickets for the Haimovitz recital are $18 in advance, $20 at the door.

Metroland Magazine, 15 August 2002

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