GGrowing up in Palo Alto as the son of Eastern European immigrants, Matt Haimovitz was immersed in classical music. In fact, as he recalls, it was the only music played in the family’s home.
Yet he didn’t let those restrictions hold him back once he became a professional cellist in his adulthood. While he considers himself to be a traditional cellist, Haimovitz has recorded albums in which he has interpreted big-band and jazz classics, as well as a two-CD collaboration with pianist Christopher O’Riley in which they played fresh arrangements of their favorite indie-rock artists, including Arcade Fire and Radiohead.
But Saturday night should mark one of his most creative pairings yet, as he shares the stage with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea in a show called “It’s All About Vibration,” part of the “Uncorked” series of shows from famed local conductor Rachael Worby’s adventurous MUSE/IQUE ensemble.
The evening, which will be performed at the Art Center College of Design, features the music of Bach, John Coltrane, Vivaldi, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles in a show full of unforgettable explorations.
“I consider myself to be a traditional cellist, but I pursue a lot of contemporary music and work with a lot of composers, as well as pursuing improvisation,” explains Haimovitz. “Really, I think that I’m just interested in any music that speaks to me in the sense that Duke Ellington said, ‘There’s good music and then there’s the other kind.’ I’ll make music in any genre that speaks to me.”
With that said, Haimovitz credits Worby, who started MUSE/IQUE as a bold, new creative venture after years as conductor of the Pasadena POPS, with dreaming up the show’s concept. The wild idea of interconnecting him with Flea, who was newly inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year as part of the Chili Peppers, ties in with the show’s string theory-based theme that everything in the universe is vibrating in tune with each other.
As such, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll will also be featured performing a rap about string theory. Haimovitz is looking forward to playing in a garden setting at the Art Center show, having established his willingness over the years to play in an assortment of creative spaces, including clubs, coffeehouses and festivals.
In addition to recording and touring extensively, native Israeli and current Montreal resident Haimovitz mentors young cellists at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal. He made his own debut at 13 years old in 1984 as a soloist with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, then started recording at age 17 with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon.
He has gone on to perform on some of the world’s most esteemed stages with the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony. But it has been in unconventional venues that has particularly shone, winning acclaim for his Bach “Listening Room” tour in 2000 and again when he traveled to all 50 states celebrating living American composers with his “Anthem” tour in 2003.
Yet, no matter where he goes, his focus is centered on his beloved cello.
“A lot of us consider the cello the instrument closest to the human voice in range and timbre, so it’s a real vocal instrument and I love that,” says Haimovitz. “I also feel like that because it has both low bass register and it can go up into the stratosphere. I love the versatility and the chameleon quality recreating any instrumental sound, from Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar to something harmonic and flute-based. In the 21st century, the cello’s really taken off, as composers really love it because it can accompany bass. But Bach proved the cello can provide a whole world of music by itself.”
Matt Haimowitz joins Flea and Sean Carroll in the new MUSE/IQUE “Uncorked” series show “It’s All About Vibration” at Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena. Monday, November 12. A wine tasting and gallery tour start at 7 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $60. Call (626) 539-7085 or visit museique.com.