Matt Haimovitz Tonight at Miller Theatre: Bach, Glass, Yun, and Woolf. Go If You Can!

In New York and love new music and the Bach Cello Suites?

Do whatever it takes to rearrange your life and go hear Matt Haimovitz, the amazingly inventive and entrepreneurial musician who concludes a four-day residency at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre at 7:00 PM tonight, performing new pieces by Philip Glass, Du Yun, and Luna Pearl Woolf, each an “overture” to the J.S. Bach First, Second, and Sixth Cello Suites (the Sixth performed on a five-string violoncello piccolo).

You’ll be glad you did.

I was in the audience for Thursday night’s program, a brilliantly played and deeply engaging presentation of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Suites, each preceded by a commissioned piece by Vijay Iyer, Roberto Sierra, and Mohammed Fairouz. I also attended all three popup performances at Brad’s Café, the Columbia University Bookstore, and even the Dodge Fitness Center. In each he played one of the overtures and a full Bach Suite, so I had the opportunity to hear everything
on tonight’s program.

Matt Haimovitz in Brad's Café at Columiba University. Photo by David Spelman

Matt Haimovitz in Brad’s Café at Columiba University. Photo by David Spelman

At Brad’s Café, an indoor/outdoor space at the School of Journalism, he sat against a wall as faculty and students had a cup of coffee, a sandwich, worked on laptops. I was struck by one of the finest cellists in the world quietly serenading us with Du Yun’s “The Veil of Veronica”and the Second Suite. A few of us listened closely, while for others it was background music. Two birds flew in, singly happily, as if to join in as both music-makers and listeners.

At the Bookstore, 15 or so people listened with rapt attention to Luna Pearl Woolf’s “Lili’uokalani,” written for the five-string cello on which Matt then played the Sixth Suite. A question and answer session followed, with as many questions for the composer as for her husband, the cellist.

Then at 5:00 PM, we gathered again in the gym. Matt had changed into workout clothes, and set up in the relative safety of a corner by a stairwell by treadmills and other equipment, and right next to the water fountains. It was just off the indoor running track, so joggers and runners would whiz by as he played the surprisingly lyrical and romantic Philip Glass Prelude and perhaps the best performance I’ve ever heard of the Bach G Major Suite. As he was waiting for the official start time, Matt played short bursts of the Bach Prelude as athletes ran past, just ten feet so from him and his Gofriller cello, which must be worth millions of dollars. The dance movements had a vitality and energy that may always be there when he plays this suite, but I imagine the enormous physical energy and motion in the space were something he was riding on as well.

I’ll be writing more about the entire experience soon. For now I’ll say that these four performances, in less than 24 hours, left me on an inspired high that has been looking forward to getting back to Indiana and my own cello–and to our cello students and me invading our own fitness center with Bach!

Matt Haimovitz in the Columbia University Dodge Fitness Center. Photo by Eric Edberg.

Matt Haimovitz in the Columbia University Dodge Fitness Center. Photo by Eric Edberg.


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