A journey from Silva to Sam Bond's.
A lot of musicians spend their whole lives trying to get out of the kinds of dumps that Matt Haimovitz has been itching to play in lately (our own Sam Bond's Garage excluded, of course).
So why would a classical cellist forego the concert hall circuit for a tour of smoky bars, skanky rock clubs and overpacked dives with names such as the Junkyard? Twice?
"To put chamber music in smaller spaces, there's nothing like it," Haimovitz said, speaking by phone from Connecticut. "The informality of it, and so on.
`I think there are many artists that, like me, would probably relish going from the concert hall and the next night going into one of these listening rooms or clubs. I hope that it opens up a new world for classical music."
Almost a year after his Bach Listening Room Tour took Haimovitz to all kinds of unseemly places - including New York's famed rock club CBGB - the Boston cellist is undertaking an even bigger tour. He's named his current one-year, 50-state jaunt after his new album, `Anthem.'
The CD takes its title from the opening track, a reinterpretation of Jimi Hendrix's wailing version of the "The Star-Spangled Banner." To underscore the point that this is not your father's cello music, Haimovitz will open his tour in Seattle, Hendrix's birthplace.
A prodigy grows up
Haimovitz, who performed with the Eugene Symphony as a 17-year-old in 1987, has fond memories of Eugene, particularly his performance at Sam Bond's last October. He recalled one classical music aficionado who couldn't find a seat in the packed club.
"He just came up on stage and kind of laid down on stage with a score of the Bach cello suites and started following the music as I was playing it," Haimovitz said. "To me, that image, it's one of the most memorable images of the whole Bach tour."
On Haimovitz's last tour, he focused on three of J.S. Bach's Six Suites for Cello Solo. This time, he'll thread the other three cello suites into a selection of works from his new album, which focuses on American composers.
The collection includes two pieces commissioned in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also includes commissions from Haimovitz's wife, Luna Pearl Woolf, and from Robert Stern, along with works by Lou Harrison, Osvaldo Golijov and Augusta Read Thomas.
The CD has pieces by contemporary renegades such as Steve Mackey and Tod Machover, as well.
"The American composers that I'm presenting have a little bit more of a harder edge. (There's) more of a rock feel," Haimovitz said.
"Most of this is completely new - the recording of `Anthem' - most of it is first recording, so I really look forward to bringing it to all parts of the country."
Haimovitz has been performing since he was 14. After earning his bachelor's degree from Harvard, he studied with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School. He has played with the likes of Issac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma.
Before he started his own Oxingale Records label, Haimovitz was under a 10-year contract with Deutsche Grammophon. He released six albums, including his 1989 debut recording of Camille Saint-Saens, Max Bruch and Edouard Lalo with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The CD was applauded by Gramophone magazine as heralding "the arrival of a new star in the cello firmament."
Mixing it up
Despite Haimovitz's success in the classical world, he continued to dabble in other musical realms, playing improvisational jazz and introducing contemporary composers into his programs.
In 2000, while revisiting Bach's cellos suites for a German festival marking the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, Haimovitz said everything changed.
While trying to put himself in the pre-concert hall period in which the pieces were written (the 1700s), he discovered that the works benefitted from being played in smaller spaces.
On his last tour, Haimovitz had to work hard to introduce himself to booking agents and persuade them that cello music really could translate into a rock music environment. The show was easier to sell this time, and Haimovitz knew what to expect from each performance space.
`There's always some quirky thing about every venue - a refrigerator humming or a blower or whatever. But there were only two instances on the entire tour where I could say, `You know, this music is not for that kind of space,' ' Haimovitz said.
"Little clinks and people eating and drinking during the performance and that type of thing, I guess, I've gotten used to. And actually, it's a huge part of what I'm doing, bringing this music down to earth in a way."
Haimovitz hasn't forsaken the concert hall entirely.
This summer, he performed at large festivals and venues, including a 12th century basilica in Germany's Rhine region, where he mixed Bach and Hendrix. In October, he's scheduled to play a Samuel Barber cello concerto in Romania.
It goes without saying that the regimented world of class- ical music prepared Haimovitz for playing in rock clubs. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that, he said, playing in smaller venues has improved his performances in concert halls.
`I think it's definitely opened me up as a performer. When I started the tour I had never really spoken in public before, I had never addressed the audience; I went from not speaking at all to speaking quite a lot. ...
`It's wonderful when I go back to the concert hall. I know have a different chemistry with the audience, even in a larger space, because of the experiences I've had."
Lewis Taylor can be reached at 338-2512 or ltaylor@guardnet .com.
What: Classical cello
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Sam Bond's Garage, 407 Blair Blvd.
How much: $15
GuardLine: To hear music by Matt Haimovitz, call the GuardLine at 485-2000 from a touch-tone phone and request category 9942
Matt Haimovitz trained at the Juilliard School. He'll perform on solo cello Wednesday at Sam Bond's Garage.