Cellist Matt Haimovitz spoke with Julia Amacher of Your Classical about The Primavera Project’s newest album: PRIMAVERA II the rabbits.
“Being immersed in this project confirms my belief that we are in a golden age of music,” cellist Matt Haimovitz said. “There’s such a range of languages and talent out there. It’s really extraordinary.”
Haimovitz has taken a few risks in his career. He’s tried different things to introduce people to classical music. His latest endeavour focuses on future generations of cellists. It’s a large-scale commissioning project, where 81 contemporary composers are invited to share their musical response to two paintings. The second recording in this six-album series, Primavera II the rabbits, was recently released.
“It centers on two paintings,” Hamiovitz said referring to the inspiration for the album. “One is Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, an iconic painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. When my partner, Jeffrianne Young, and I encountered this painting, we became obsessed with it. We started reading all about its mysteries, stories, narratives and symbolism.
“Around that time, we also discovered the Hirshhorn Gallery. We walked into a one-woman show by the great artist Charline von Heyl and were blown away by her work. We met with Charline and talked about the Botticelli and the state of the world. She created Primavera 2020, a response to the Botticelli, for us. For this album, we asked all the composers to respond and engage those two paintings in any way they want.”
Why did you choose to commission 81 works?
“It was supposed to be nine, and it was supposed to be tone poems for cello and orchestra. All my orchestral dates dried up, and I was going nuts not having work. Basically, we changed the idea into a solo cello project. The nine composers that we started with recommend the next nine and so on. It became a viral commissioning project, which got nine layers deep.”
Can you give an example of where we might hear new and interesting sounds from the cello on this album?
“One interesting piece is by Niloufar Nourbakhsh, an Iranian composer. It’s called Cyclical Rabbits, and I begin with plucking that sounds like an oud. It sounds like a Persian instrument. She gets that effect by using sticky tack on the string.
“I realize how important it is to advocate for these composers and to bring this music to life. I want to be part of the fabric of making sure that classical music is a vibrant living entity.”
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