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Beethoven, Period

Haimovitz and O'Riley
Beethoven, Period
Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley go all-Beethoven

Buffalo lovers of classical chamber music are getting their first and probably their best Christmas present a little early this year, just after Thanksgiving. Over the course of three days, the convention-breaking cellist Matt Haimovitz, and pianist Christopher O’Riley, who has arguably done more than any other individual to encourage young, classical musicians in America, are coming to town to present what will be a unique concert-going experience, when they perform all the works composed by Ludwig van Beethoven for piano and cello during the course of two evenings, the first at the Mary Seaton Room in Kleinhans Music Hall on Tuesday December 1 at 8pm and the second on Thursday December 3 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall on the UB Amherst Campus. What will make this event even more memorable is that both Haimovitz and O’Riley will be performing on period instruments, a practice very new to both performers.

Disillusioned by the kinds of classical career paths then available, Grammy-nominated Matt Haimovitz, who had a prestigious Deutsche Gramophone recording contract as a teenager, decided to forge a new direction for himself back in 2002, when he started playing the music of Bach in bars and clubs, hoping to reach new audiences. He has performed since then on at least three occasions in Nietzsche’s, the venerable Allentown town bar more noted for any kind of music but classical. Haimovitz also founded his own record company, Oxingale, so that he and other musicians such as O’Riley, Ani Kavafian, Kim Kashkashian and the Miró Quartet might enjoy more input in the repertoire than was possible when working for one of the major labels.

Christopher Riley was already well into a career as an innovative, touring virtuoso pianist—some readers might recall his remarkably effective recital that combined a program of the preludes of Bach and Shostakovich in a lightly-attended QRS series concert that took place in Kleinhans during a blizzard—acclaimed for his engaging and deeply committed performances. He soon became known to millions as the host of National Public Radio’s program From the Top which has since become indispensable to discovering and nurturing young classical musicians.

Haimovitz and O’Riley have recorded all of the Beethoven works for cello and pianoforte for a Pentatone label double CD that was issued earlier this year. For that release O’Riley was able to use a very rare original instrument: made by John Broadwood in 1823 which was loaned by the Ira F. Brilliant Institute for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State. For these performances, O’Riley will perform on UB’s fine fortepiano replica, made by Richard Hester, while Haimovitz refitted his rare 1710 Goffriller cello with ox-gut strings, a rosewood tailpiece and a period bow.

“All of the sudden, the relation between the cello and the piano is completely different,” Haimovitz said in a recent radio interview on WQXR. “No longer am I trying to project over the grandeur of a Steinway grand but I’m actually having to make room for the piano”, while O’Riley observed that “You have a lot more leeway in terms of expressivity and color, even in the sense of one note having a shape to it.”

Early last spring, Haimovitz and Riley’s agent contacted Slee Hall concert manager Phil Rehard about the possibility of adding Buffalo to their current tour. Since the duo does not travel with its own fortepiano, he was particularly interested in adding UB as a venue, because of the quality of its fortepiano. Because of scheduling and funding considerations, Rehard reached out to Clem Fleshler, the artistic director of the venerable Buffalo Chamber Music Society, to see if the BCMS might be interested in hosting one of the events. Fleshler was enthusiastic, and after consulting with her board of directors, it was a done deal. Fifteen or twenty years ago, the BCMS and the UB Department of Music collaborated on a similar program annually. To paraphrase the last line of the film Casablanca, as spoken by Rick to Captain Renault: “I hope this is the renewal of a beautiful friendship.”

Tuesday December 1, 8pm at Kleinhans: Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violoncello, Op. 5, Nr. 1 and No.2 along with 12 Variations on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” for Cello and Piano, Op. 66 and 12 Variations on “See the conquering hero comes” for Cello and Piano, WoO 45.

Tickets: $25; free admission for Middle/High School students. Information:

Thursday December 3, 7:30pm at Slee Hall: Variations on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”, for Cello and Piano, WoO 46, Sonata for Pianoforte and Violoncello in A Major, Op.69, and Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violoncello, Op.102, Nr.1 and Nr. 2.

On Wednesday December 2 at 3:30pm, Matt Haimovitz will conduct a master class in Baird Recital Hall and Christopher O’Riley will host a master class in Slee Hall with both classes free and open to public observation.

Tickets: $15/10 seniors students; free for UB students. Information:

The UB Alumni Association is hosting a reception, limited to 60 people for this event at 6pm with light hors d’oeuvres and an open bar serving wine and beer for $25 a ticket/$45 a pair. Please register by Sunday, Nov. 29 as space is limited.

Bass Baritone Supreme at UB

It is a good bet that when asked, anyone who has attended the annual new music June in Buffalo Festivals over the last decade and a half would recall the performances of the American born, Paris-based bass baritone Nicholas Isherwood as among the most memorable events. On Friday, November 4 at 7:30pm in Baird Recital Hall, Isherwood will present a do-not-miss solo recital titled “The Electric Voice 2014/2015”. The program includes Miguel Azguime’s De Fond en Comble, David Felder’s BlackFire/White Fire, Michael Norris’ Deep Field, Jean Claude Risset’s Otro and Isaac Shankler’s Mouthfeel. For ticket information, please see above.

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