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Œuvres de Lou Harrison, David Sanford, Osvaldo Golijov, Luna Pearl Woolf, Robert Stern, Steven Mackey, Augusta Read Thomas, Tod Machover, Toby Twining, Matt Haimovitz / Matt Haimovitz, violoncelle
In the age of sterile, hopelessly unimaginative "crossover" projects, cellist Matt Haimovitz earned a solid reputation with his passionate, earnestly invigorating advocay of the Bach Cello Suites in non-traditional venues for classical music. But his exciting project here on Anthem goes even several steps further: rather than rely on a safe brand-name composer, Haimovitz has put together a program of mostly unfamiliar music celebrating both American composers and the unfettered capacity of his instrument. Lou Harrison's prelude from "Rhymes with Silver" is spiked with a taste of baroque linearity but commands with its uncontrived, openhearted melancholy. A sense of musical playfulness dominates in Golijov's Omaramar, a Gardel-inspired fantasia, while one of the disc's most stunning showpieces is Haimovitz's take on a pioneering early piece by Tod Machover, With Dadaji in Paradise, which seemingly explores every inch of the instrument's landscape (Haimovitz can also be heard playing "hypercello" on the latter's intriguing recording the Hyperstring Triology). Two of the pieces were inspired by the atrocity of 9/11: David Sanford's effective Seventh Avenue Kaddish--where the soloist functions, as Haimovitz sees it, as a kind of "professional mourner"--and Toby Twining's microtonally obsessed 9:11 Blues. For all of the in-your-face, upfront emotional directness that is becoming Haimovitz's signature, he clearly also relishes the mind games of Steve Mackey's labyrinth of variations in Rhondo Variations. The title track, meanwhile, stands as a brilliant tribute not only to one of his musical heroes but succeeds in undoing what Haimovtiz has referred to as the electric guitar's "testosterone monopoly." Anthem is not only for fans of the cello and new music but for anyone tired of stale, preformulated patterns. --Thomas May
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Politics aside - and while Matt Haimovitz is an excellent cellist -- most of the music on this CD is too modern and dissonant for my tastes. I couldn't even bear to listen to it all the way through. The title track, "Anthem" (which is Haimovitz's cello transcription of the Jimi Hendrix Woodstock version of the Star Spangled Banner) was almost excruciating! I wound up giving this CD away.
If you are openminded and have avant garde tastes -- and appreciate the political statements made in Haimovitz's music -- then I would recommend this CD, but if you were expecting Mstislav Rostropovich, Gregor Piatigorsky, Julian Lloyd Webber or Yo Yo Ma, then I would pass on this.
I bought the CD, brought it home and played it for my 10-yr-old, who has been playing cello for 4 years. She didn't like it at all. I thought she might be interested in the wide range of sounds and effects that Matt is able to draw from his instrument. But her age outweighed her musical appreciation.
So it's for adults clearly, and that's fine. It's one of the most interesting things I've listed to in a long time. The Hendrix piece inventively moved ahead and was different from the original, yet retained all the power and impact of its predecessor.
The other political pieces were very evocative. This work gives me hope in a way that's hard to describe. It's exciting to hear another's response to what's been happening - the depth and intensity of which speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit.
It starts with Matt's own acoustic cello transcription of Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" just as Hendrix played it at Woodstock, and continues with a series of powerful contemporary pieces, several written in direct response to Sept. 11. After you hear this CD all the way through, you will have a new perspective and appreciation for contemporary classical music. The Hendrix piece cuts through the wall between rock and classical music that lately seems to have become impenetrable.