Your Ad Here!
Your Ad Here!

Review of concert

Bank of America Celebrity Series:
Matt Haimovitz, cello, with members of UCCELLO

Friday, February 3, 2006, 8:00 PM
Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Montreal-based virtuoso cellist Matt Haimovitz , a one-time Harvard student, returned to his alma mater courtesy of the Bank of America Celebrity Series to present a first-rate evening of solo works, almost all of which were composed during the last hundred years. His approach in several ways mirrors that of crossover icons the Kronos Quartet; here, one encountered a program heavy on folk-tinged fare that closed with an arrangement of a pop music standard, enhanced by theatrical lighting, discreet amplification, and between-selections patter. Much of this evening's music appears on a recently released Oxingale CD and proved most worthy to hear.

One of the strongest of these is David Sanford's scalar if not quite tonal paean to September 11, Seventh Avenue Kaddish (2002). It carves out a clear bipartite edifice, the first half loaded with angry, energetic, showy gestures, the last half awash in affectingly elegiac figuration. This is compelling, urgent, well-built stuff that deserves the widest possible dissemination. Enjoyable too was Dadaji in Paradise (1977/78, rev. 1983) by Tod Machover , which deftly incorporates sections of chordal tonality and dissonant pointillism, infusing it all with Indian raga perfume. Aspects of variations and rondo are smoothly interwoven in its imaginative structure. Osvaldo Golijov's Omaramor (1993) suffers from diffuse architecture, though its melodic surface, a rhapsodic fantasia on an Argentine tango tune, is attractively suave.

Though born in Israel , Haimovitz's heritage is Eastern European, and thus it's no surprise he has an affinity for composers of the latter region. Gordun (2005) by Adrian Pop seamlessly oozes in and out of framing sections quoting Transylvanian folk song, essentially an extremely free variant on this vernacular material. Earnest and engaging, it is also a little loose structurally. Gyorgy Ligeti's two-movement Sonata for Solo Cello (1948-1953), while a student work, already shows the spark of masterful genius. Movement one spins out Bartok-inflected melodic material alternated with strummed glissando chords, while the finale is an exciting toccata flexible enough to seamlessly quote snatches of Balinese gamelan. This splendid entry rivets the listener's attention. The solo Sonata (1915) by Zoltan Kodaly, like Paganini's violin etudes and a good bit of Liszt's solo piano fare, is of scant musical value but survives in the repertoire as a daunting technical mountain to climb.

A trio of Haimovitz's students, Sung Pyung Chu, Amelia Jakobsson , and Judith Manger (billed as members of UCCELLO) joined their teacher on stage to present effective four-cello arrangements of Bela Bartok's Romanian Dances and Led Zeppelin's Kashmir . The three played with individual assurance and collective chamber music smarts. Haimovitz himself was absolutely sensational, owner of a robust tone, uncommonly fleet and accurate left hand, fluidly accomplished bow arm, and personable stage presence. He proved both a passionate, articulate advocate for the newer items and a remarkable interpreter of older repertoire; his lucid, perfectly paced Kodaly ranks with the best your reviewer has ever heard and his presentation of two J.S. Bach solo suite movements (appearing as preamble and encore) was imaginative and urtext -savvy.

--David Cleary