Matt Haimovitz

Matteo: 300 Years of an Italian Cello

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Cellist Matt Haimovitz has been a pioneer in serious crossover projects that aim to engage younger audiences with classical music. The "Matteo" referred to in the title of this album is not, or not primarily, Haimovitz himself but the maker of his cello, a 1710 instrument by Matteo Gofriller. The 300 Years of an Italian Cello title might lead you to expect a survey, in the manner of E. Annie Proulx's novel Accordion Crimes, of the cello's travels and of the music it might have played, but listeners in search of such a thing will be disappointed. Whether because of his Grammy nomination for his jazz-oriented album Meeting of the Spirits or for some other reason, Haimovitz apparently has felt the need to reassert his academic credentials here. The program of solo cello music alternates the ricercars of Domenico Gabrielli, published in 1689, with a variety of contemporary compositions, most of them Italian. Haimovitz's Montreal colleague Brian Cherney is also given space for a newly composed Capriccio for solo cello. Haimovitz seems uncertain about the role he wants the Gabrielli pieces to play: he imagines them as quasi-improvisatory pieces but also stresses their contrapuntal artifices and their possible links to Bach's suites for solo cello. As for the works by Berio, Dallapiccola, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Claudio Ambrosini, they offer a mixture of established high-modernist techniques including dodecaphony, quasi-scientific appropriation of world rhythms, and extended technique. Haimovitz is noted for taking classical music into pop concert spaces and even into bars, but it's hard to imagine that he'd have much success with this music in such settings. Nor is it clear how he believes they related to Gabrielli's virtuoso pieces beyond the fact that all the music is composed for solo cello. The booklet is not much help, and it misspells not only Gofriller's name but also that of Jimi Hendrix, whose music would have enlivened this program considerably.

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