Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 18, 2020

REVIEW: Valley Classical Concerts, Matt Haimovitz & Simone Dinnerstein

Valley Classical Concerts, Sweeney Concert Hall, Smith College
January 12, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

Haimovitz & Dinnerstein
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo recently won acclaim for a recital program featuring music by George Frederic Handel and Philip Glass, so why shouldn’t the duo of cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Simone Dinnerstein do the same with a program of Beethoven and Glass?

Both at the height of distinguished careers, equally at home with new and older music, and noted for an independent streak in how and where they perform, their juxtaposition of Beethoven’s last two cello and piano sonatas with two Glass pieces for solo cello and solo piano gave Beethoven a 21st-century cutting edge and Glass a firm grounding in classical rhythm.

Written simultaneously with the fifth sonata in 1815, as Beethoven was approaching his final decade, the fourth sonata defies convention with only two movements, each with a slow introduction and a faster main section. The duo played it with dramatic intensity.  

Haimovitz then performed Glass’s second Partita for solo cello, of which he gave the world premiere in 2017. In seven short movements totaling about 25 minutes, all with predominantly slow tempos, the partita displayed little of the minimalist repetition on which Glass’s early reputation was made. Haimovitz rendered it with affecting emotional conviction.

Intermission was followed with an equally gripping account by Dinnerstein of Glass’s “Mad Rush” for solo piano. Written in 1979 for the first public appearance of the Dalai Lama in the United States, the piece was of indeterminate length to accommodate the speaker’s unpredictable schedule, but its published version lasts about 15 minutes. Dinnerstein alternated its contemplative and declamatory passages with passion and sensitivity.

After closing the concert with Beethoven’s fifth sonata for cello and piano, highlighted by a rapturous central Adagio, the duo’s three encores showed how a third composer influenced both of these successors: a lively Allegro from Bach’s second viola da gamba sonata; a moving transcription of his 25th Goldberg variation; and a rhapsodic “The Orchard,” from Glass’s music for Jean Genet’s play “The Screens.”

The warm acoustics of Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College in Northampton, flattering the deep, mellow tone of Haimovitz’s cello and the rich, dark resonance of Dinnerstein’s grand piano, added sonic luster to this rewarding musical afternoon.