“Orbit – Music for Solo Cello” = various composers – Matt Haimovitz, cello – Oxingale/Pentatone multichannel SACD 5186 542 (three discs), 225:00, (8/14/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
I have long been impressed with both the virtuosity of the young Canadian cellist Matt Haimovitz as well as with his willingness to blaze new territory and take risks. The concept behind this album is simultaneously simple and yet cheeky and courageous. Haimovotz sought out an impressive, mostly rewarding, and often eclectic set of works for solo cello written over the second half of the twentieth century and into the present.
Specifically, this collection called Orbit is a three-disc compilation of music for solo cello written between 1945 and 2014 by quite the array of composers including Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, Luigi Dallapiccola and many others. In fact, I find it nearly pointless to list the over twenty individual works. It is enough to know, in my opinion, that this amazing – and sometimes exhausting to listen to – collection is musically impressive and challenging and displays an immense variety of music.
Some online research also tells us that Orbit is the second release in the PentaTone Oxingale Series, in which PentaTone joins forces with the Grammy® Award-winning Oxingale Records, an artists’ label founded in 2000 equally committed to offering noteworthy, distinctive interpretations of both mainstream repertoire as well as works by recent and living composers. Press materials point out that this collection contains nearly all the solo contemporary recordings initially released with Haimovitz from five Oxingale albums between 2003-2011. This collection also contains two newly recorded tracks: Philip Glasss Orbit and a new arrangement by Luna Woolf (who was also a project producer) of the Beatles “Helter Skelter”. [I can’t believe the original recordings are actually in multichannel, so in remastering PentaTone has evidently created a surround field from the stereo channels, as Opus Three and others have done with many of their recordings…Ed.]
I cannot honestly say that each of the twenty-two individual works here captured my fancy. I did not fully get behind (or understand) the somewhat abstract depths of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Ai Limita Della Notte or Berio’s Sequenza XIV (he did write an entire series of Sequenzas for various instrumental combinations). Many of the composers here have been favorites of mine for a long time including such names as Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov and Steve Mackey.
So, I think I enjoyed mainly some new and occasionally ‘bold’ new discoveries such as David Sanford’s “Seventh Avenue Kaddish” and Toby Twining’s “Blues.” How do you not admire the hubris of the arrangements of Jimmy Hendrix’s “Anthem” or the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” as well?
As I said this is an amazingly comprehensive and just a bit boldly-selected group of solo works played by one of the present best players in the world, in my opinion. I cannot imagine any cellist not being completely mesmerized by this collection and by Matt’s playing. Lovers of contemporary music have plenty to like here too. The sound by PentaTone remains absolutely superb from this label that is fast becoming one of my favorite and ‘sure fire go to’ classical producers. Highly recommended!
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