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Cellist teaches classical ABCs to generations named X and Y.

Byline: FRED CRAFTS The Register-Guard

FOR MASSACHUSETTS musician Matt Haimovitz, it's all about the music.

"It's really fun when I get people to hear me who aren't necessarily my audience," he says by phone from his home in Amherst, Mass. "It's wonderful to have people listen to the music for the first time, in a fresh way."

Haimovitz has life just the way he wants it. He is polishing up his act and taking it on the road. He'll be driving his own car, loaded with instruments, sheet music and baggage.

Among his stops: the punk hangout CBGB in New York City, Tractor Tavern in Seattle, St. John's Pub in Portland and Mint in Los Angeles. This is his first West Coast swing.

His lone Eugene stop will be at Sam Bond's Garage on Friday

Haimovitz won't be getting rich off the show. He will be playing for the cover charge taken at the door. He will sell his CDs afterward. He has six of them.

But it's not about the money - it's about the music. Haimovitz wants his music heard by as many people as possible. To do that, he will play anywhere, any time.

Haimovitz is praying for a full house, but he has no idea how many will show up. He hopes his style of music will please the bar's patrons. The music means a lot to him. He loves to share it.

The show, though, may startle regulars at Sam Bond's Garage, particularly when Haimovitz, wearing blue jeans and an open-collared shirt, straddles his cello and rips into some of J.S. Bach's greatest hits: Suites 1-3 for Unaccompanied Cello.

Bach and beer? Cello and chips? Why not? says Haimovitz, 31.

Less than a month after his Eugene gig, he will be on a far grander stage in Tel Aviv (Nov. 23), playing Ludwig van Beethoven's Triple Concerto with pianist Itamar Golan and violinist Shlomo Mintz and the Israel Philharmonic, led by conductor Zubin Mehta.

Talk about playing both ends of the spectrum. Venue-wise, Haimovitz has got to be the crossover king.

"I've always felt I was doing something so abstract and so remote that my generation just doesn't `get' what I do. After hitting my head against the wall so many times trying to get them into the concert hall, I've decided that I have to take it to them," he says.

Haimovitz speaks in a soft voice and frequently laughs good-naturedly at what he is saying.

"The 20th and 21st century concert hall is not where Bach intended his music to be played. He didn't have that kind of space for his music. So, what I am doing is going back in time, before the concert hall ever existed, and revisiting the kinds of experiences this music may have been intended for."

What Haimovitz terms his "listening-room" tour began as an experiment in November 2000 when, after recording Bach's six cello suites, he sought places to play them publicly.

"I realized that there was a subtlety and range of expression that didn't belong in a 2,000-3,000 seat concert hall," he says, "so I started thinking of more intimate spaces where I could play. That opened it up to spaces that don't necessarily present classical music."

As an experiment, Haimovitz approached the jazz and folk-oriented Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass., to do a CD release party there.

"The reaction from the audience was just astounding that night. I hadn't felt that kind of electricity in a long time in a concert hall," Haimovitz says.

To see if this was more than "just a local happening," Haimovitz booked himself into gritty places on a six-month tour. The response was so positive that he is now playing more club dates than concert halls.

"Classical promoters thought that I was nuts for doing this and taking a risk with my career," he says with a laugh. "And it was really an uphill battle to convince the promoters of these alternative listening rooms to open their doors to Bach and take a risk on presenting classical music. But now, it's taken on a life of its own."

Haimovitz is probably the most-credentialed musician to play most of these venues. A child prodigy, he has been performing since he was 14, making music with the likes of Daniel Barenboim, Issac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman and Yo-Yo Ma. As a teen-ager, he played with the Eugene Symphony in 1987.

He has been honored with the Avery Fisher Career Grant (1986) and was the first cellist ever to receive the Premio Internazionale Accademia Musicale Chigiana (1999). Of his six recordings on the Deutsche Grammophon label, Suites and Sonatas for Solo Cello was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque (1991) and le Diapason d'Or (1991).

Haimovitz's recording of Bach's Six Suites for Cello Solo, on Oxingale Records, a label he founded with composer Luna Pearl Woolf, has been nominated for an Indie Award, named a Top Pick in U.S. News and World Report and featured in Billboard, Gramophone, the New Criterion and others.

Haimovitz received his B.A. from Harvard University and studied with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School and also with Gabor Rejto and Ron Leonard. He currently heads the cello program at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst).

Although it may seem odd to find a world-class cellist playing Bach in a bar, Haimovitz insists it is "not a gimmick."

"To me, there is nothing that beats hearing great music in a small space," he says, noting that he has slowly gotten used to having patrons sitting at his elbows and breathing down his neck.

"I'm absolutely vulnerable in these spaces, but it's worth it," he says. "People in these venues are relaxed enough and not self-conscious about what they're wearing and what is the right way to respond. That gives them the freedom to let the music overtake them. For me, that's a very healthy thing. To me, that's not a gimmick."

In the larger picture, Haimovitz is blazing a path to new classical audiences.

"Classical music has become such a fringe part of our culture in America that it is an alternative music now," he says. "Chamber societies and presenters are presenting far fewer concerts than they ever did before. What do you do with that wonderful, talented young person fresh out of school who should be evolving and developing their talent? Where does that person play? There isn't an infrastructure for developing those kinds of careers any more."

"I hope to be like a singer-songwriter or a jazz artist traveling the country and playing sometimes before a handful of people, sometimes before a huge crowd. It's a wonderful way to develop your chops and experiment musically," he says.

"I do believe this is something that will eventually become part of the classical music culture. Whether I am realistic, we'll see, but I'm certainly committed to it for my musical needs."


WHAT: Acclaimed cellist plays J.S. Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, in a bar

WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Sam Bond's Garage, 407 Blair Blvd.

HOW MUCH: $10, at the door; call 343-2635

GUARDLINE: To hear samples of the music, call the GuardLine at 485-2000 and request category 3733
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Title Annotation:To reach his own generation, classical cellist plays where they hang out - in bars; Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Oct 20, 2002
Previous Article:Cultured and crazy variety show.
Next Article:Eugene Opera plans preview.

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