A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 113: Two at the Mohawk Trail Concerts

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Matt Haimovitz. Photo Stephanie Mackinnon
Matt Haimovitz. Photo Stephanie Mackinnon

Matt Haimovitz plays Poulenc

It was my pleasure to hear another Mohawk Trail Concert in Charlemont on Saturday evening to hear cellist Matt Haimovitz. Matt is a local favorite, and he spent several years teaching at UMass Amherst. My particular interest in attending was to hear the Francis Poulenc sonata. The slow movement of this piece I have loved, especially the last few bars. Why? Because in this movement, Poulenc takes off his clownish mask. We hear his music straight from the heart, as we do occasionally in the Dialogues of the Carmelites, and in the Stabat Mater. Mr. Haimovitz’s playing is marvelousely specific. No two phrases sound alike. In everything he played there was a vocal quality; it had the intensity of great singing. He told us that he had chosen to play with a lighter Baroque bow, and this made if all the more speaking. You may wish to find a new 2-cd set of the Beethoven cello sonatas recorded by Matt and Christopher O”Reilly. I haven’t heard it, but I bet it is good. The playing of this great instrumentalist goes straight to the heart.

While you are in Charlemont walk across the street from the Federated Church where the concerts are played, and you will see another miracle magnificent and sweet. It is a massive elm tree, much older than any of us, the canopy broad and magnificent. It is at once protective and overwhelmling. I sit on the lawn for a few minutes and let it teach me.

Baroque and Traditional Fiddles Meet

There was splendid music in the first Mohawk Trail Concert in Charlemont, Massachusetts. The idea of the concert itself was excellent—half performed by a Baroque solo violinist, and the other half by a traditional fiddler. Emlyn Ngai gave the older music he played real energy, no mousy thin-toned playing from this fellow. The Third Partita of J.S. Bach in particular got a wonderful reading, as Mr. Ngai said, full of the rhythms of the dance. Liz Carroll, a prize-winning fiddler, beguiled us with her ability to play quick dances and sweet melodies, especially the famous Irish ballad, The Coolin, sharply,but also beautifully. Her playing had a marvelous inside to it, which went straight to the heart. Perhaps the best aspect of this concert was the idea of it in the first place, floated by new concert series director and cellist Mark Fraser. There is always a comfortable feel to the Mohawk Trail concerts, no pretension whatsoever.

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