From The Register-Guard:
The rockin' cellist is no novelty act
By Carolyn Lamberson - Friday, January 20, 2006
Matt Haimovitz plays classical music. Cello, precisely.
While he's at home on the big concert stages of the world, he's made a name for himself playing in unexpected venues.
The Knitting Factory in Los Angeles. CBGB in New York City. The Tractor Tavern in Seattle. And Sam Bond's Garage in Eugene.
What takes this cellist and music professor to some of America's favorite rock 'n' roll clubs?
A simple quest: To bring the works of some of the world's greatest composers to a wider audience.
"A lot of this music doesn't belong in large halls. Chamber music was meant to be played in the chamber," Haimovitz said, adding that new venues and new perspectives help give classical fans a fresh take on the music they love.
"Certain routines have gotten ingrained in the classical music world."
The past two times he's played in Eugene - his shows at Sam Bond's in 2002 and 2003 generated tremendous buzz - Haimovitz focused on works by J.S. Bach and contemporary American composers - including Jimi Hendrix.
This time, his "Listening Room" tour will focus on the works and influence of the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok.
A thread from Bartok to Zeppelin
Haimovitz's latest record, "Goulash! A Bartok Infused Stew," featured three works by Bartok: Romanian Folk Dances, First Rhapsody for Violin and Piano and the suite from "44 Duos."
The album also includes Osvaldo Golijov's Oraci Lucum; Gyorgy Ligeti's Sonata for Violincello Solo; "Trans" and "Goulash" by DJ Olive and Haimovitz; a new work, "Gordun" by Adrian Pop; and "Menevse," which was written by Constan- tinople and Haimovitz.
Oh, and there's that classic opening track: "Kashmir." By Led Zeppelin.
"I'm basically saying that if you're a Zeppelin fan, I think you're going to appreciate the Bartok tracks," Haimovitz said by phone from his home in Montreal. "I think that if you really stop hearing these dif- ferent genres, my hope is that you hear Bartok"
Because in addition to bringing a new perspective to classical fans, he also hopes to introduce classical music to rock 'n' roll fans.
"I envy people who are listening to this music for the first time," Haimovitz said. "You don't have to have a Ph.D. in classical music appreciate it.
"The idea is to grow the audience in the same way that a rock 'n' roll band has to go out and do it, show by show."
Keeping classical music relevant
Not that he's performing some rock-classical hybrid. This is classical music, but it sports a contemporary sensibility that might make it attractive to rock listeners.
Bringing in those rock 'n' roll fans is a big part of why he tours rock halls. He hopes to help make classical music relevant on a larger scale.
"Growing up, I did this very abstract thing of pursuing cello," the 35-year-old Haimovitz said. "Growing up with my generation, I didn't have a sense that it was really understood or relevant to my generation, what I was doing.
"I've tried to rethink my own role as a musician, and make those audiences enjoy the music that I really love."
With him on this tour is UCCELLO, a quartet featuring Haimovitz and three of his best students from McGill University in Montreal, where he is a professor of cello. Haimovitz will open the show with a solo set, then be joined on stage by the members of UCCELLO, who also loaned their talents to "Goulash."
Haimovitz said he still loves playing concertos in big halls; one of the highlights of the "Goulash!" tour will be a show next month in the 1,500-seat Sanders Theatre at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
But Haimovitz said playing the small clubs lets him tinker with the set lists and connect more closely with audiences.
"I still play in the concert hall," Haimovitz said. "I love playing concertos and the drama of it, but there is something very human in the experiences that I've had in the past couple years.
"It's forced me to develop as a performer and broaden my horizon by embracing a different kind of audience."
In the past, Eugene fans have been receptive to Haimovitz's mission. He fondly recalls previous shows at Sam Bond's.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Eugene," he said. "There's an amazing audience there. I think it might have something to do with the Bach Festival.
"I'll definitely have to play some Bach on that show."