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Matt Haimovitz’s March madness culminates in Glass premiere

Cellist Matt Haimovitz’s month can only be described as a case of “March Madness.” He plays solo Bach for Canada’s CBC, continues his hit Shuffle.Play.Listen tour with pianist Christopher O’Riley, and gives the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Cello Concerto No. 2 Naqoyqatsi” with the Cincinnati Symphony and Dennis Russell Davies (March 30–31). Released last fall by Oxingale Records, the double-album Shuffle.Play.Listen juxtaposes 20th-century classics by Stravinsky, Janácek, Martinu, Piazzolla, and Bernard Herrmann with bold arrangements of art-rock songs by the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire and jazz-rock by John McLaughlin. After Haimovitz and O’Riley played at hallowed jazz den Yoshi’s for the San Francisco leg of their cross-country club tour, the Chronicle described their performance as “soulful and diverse,” crediting it with successfully bridging the divides between classical, jazz, and rock music through “the brilliance and virtuosic tenderness of their playing.”
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently filmed the cellist live in the studio performing Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. 6. The network is releasing this footage this week, with one movement uploaded per day; the first installment of Haimovitz’s “Bach by the Day” is now available on the new CBCMUSIC.CA site.  His prize-winning 2001 Oxingale recording of Bach’s complete Suites for Solo Cello was acclaimed by outlets from Billboard to Gramophone, while his live Bach performances have been called “extraordinary” (Philadelphia Inquirer).
Haimovitz has long been as comfortable performing Hendrix as Bach, and was playing rock clubs before so many other classical artists followed suit. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, his duo with O’Riley should be dubbed, using rock terminology, “a supergroup.” Showcasing repertoire from Shuffle.Play.Listen in clubs, major concert series, and university residencies across the country, the duo’s tour presses on, with stops in Fairfax, VA (March 24) and Pittsburgh, PA (April 15). Meanwhile the double album continues generating high praise, being described as “a landmark” (Portland Press Herald) and “a stimulating step forward” (All Music Guide). Veteran UK critic Norman Lebrecht declared: “I can’t wait to play this CD to people a third of my age and set them guessing where it’s from. The categories are irrelevant. This is good music, fabulously played… . This could well be the coolest classical disc of the year” (La Scena Musicale).
Haimovitz and O’Riley have uploaded videos from the Shuffle.Play.Listen recording sessions on YouTube. These include their extended improvisation on John McLaughlin’s Lotus on an Irish Spring, which may be accessed here; their renditions of songs by Arcade Fire (“Empty Room”) and Blonde Redhead (“Misery Is a Butterfly”); and more. On March 30, the duo will perform “Empty Room” on the Canadian nightly, nationally broadcast George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (or Strombo, as it has been nicknamed). Additionally, Haimovitz and O’Riley performed a Shuffle.Play.Listen. concert at Redpath Hall in Montreal in January, which will be broadcast nationally on CBC Radio and then added to the CBC Music portal in early April.   Strings magazine captured the magic the two create together: “Haimovitz’s musical zeal plus O’Riley’s amazing finesse equals a powerhouse sound that vacillates wildly between whispery plaintiveness, emotive intensity, and enviable improvisational prowess.”
On March 30 and 31, Haimovitz presents the world premiere performance of Philip Glass’s Cello Concerto No. 2 with the Cincinnati Symphony under Dennis Russell Davies.   Glass drew his Cello Concerto No. 2 from the score to Naqoyqatsi: “The score had a lot of cello in it, and I always had the feeling that buried in the piece was a cello concerto struggling to get out.” On March 29 at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Haimovitz joins the composer in an informal, moderated discussion about the concerto that will include performance excerpts.
Last August, Haimovitz participated in a performance of Glass’s Naqoyqatsi with the Philip Glass ensemble at the Edinburgh Festival, playing along with the Godfrey Reggio film Naqoyqatsi (part of the trilogy that also includes Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi). A Scotsman review of the event described the cellist’s performance as “stunning.” On playing the Glass concerto without the film, Haimovitz said: “It is achingly beautiful music that makes the images of violence and war barely palatable. It is an amazing experience to have the counterpoint, but I’m looking forward to being liberated from the visual element and able to express the essence of the music.”
Beyond March, Haimovitz’s spring includes an exciting reach back into the standard repertoire, when he performs Saint-Saëns’s First Cello Concerto in Illinois for the first time since recording the work at age 16 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and James Levine for Deutsche Grammophon. Haimovitz performs the Saint-Saëns on May 4–6 with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra under Victor Yampolsky.
Matt Haimovitz: upcoming performances
March 24
Fairfax, VA
Shuffle.Play.Listen recital with Christopher O’Riley
March 30–31
Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / Dennis Russell Davies
Philip Glass: Cello Concerto No. 2 “Naqoyqatsi”
April 1
Cincinnati, OH
Matt Haimovitz, Pamela Frank & Friends
Schumann, Adrian Pop and Gideon Klein
April 2
Loveland, OH
Matt Haimovitz, Pamela Frank & Friends
Schumann, Adrian Pop and Gideon Klein
April 15
Pittsburgh, PA
Shuffle.Play.Listen recital with Christopher O’Riley
May 4–6
Elgin, IL
Elgin Symphony Orchestra / Victor Yampolsky
Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1
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