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Inspired by the past but embracing the new, Matt Haimovitz: Primavera II, has plenty of bounce / theStrad

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On February 4, 2022, multi-Grammy nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz released;  PRIMAVERA II the rabbits, on PENTATONE Oxingale Series. The new digital album features the next 13 of 81 new pieces written for Haimovitz, commissioned by THE PRIMAVERA PROJECT, also featuring Haimovitz’s new arrangement of Josquin de Prez’s Kyrie (from Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae). The project asks composers to respond to Sandro Botticelli’s enigmatic painting, Primavera, and the prophetic large-scale triptych, Primavera 2020, by contemporary artist Charline von Heyl. Haimovitz recorded the album in May 2021 at von Heyl’s artist studio near downtown Marfa, Texas.

PRIMAVERA II the rabbits is the second of six albums in a momentous series encompassing 81 world premieres for solo cello. This digital album presents 13 new commissions by THE PRIMAVERA PROJECT for groundbreaking, multi-GRAMMY nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz. Each composer responds to Sandro Botticelli’s enigmatic painting, Primavera, and the prophetic large-scale triptych, Primavera 2020, by world-renowned contemporary artist Charline von Heyl. The album also features Haimovitz's new arrangement of Josquin de Prez’s Kyrie (from Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae).

PRIMAVERA II the rabbits begins where PRIMAVERA I the wind left off, referencing the time of Botticelli. Haimovitz plays all four parts of his arrangement of Josquin des Prez’s Kyrie from Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae, bridging to Missy Mazzoli’s deconstruction of Josquin in her haunting Beyond the Order of Things (After Josquin). Haimovitz also overlays the four cellos of Texu Kim’s Beseeching, entwining Native-American rain dance drumming and old Korean melodies in voices of desperation and hope.

theStrad's David Kettle writes…. Plenty of bounce in an album inspired by the past but embracing the new

Primavera II: The Rabbits is the second instalment in cellist Matt Haimovitz’s projected cycle of six releases covering no fewer than 81 new commissions for solo cello (there are 14 here). They are based around both Botticelli’s 15th-century painting Primavera and Charline von Heyl’s contemporary response in Primavera 2020, with all the inevitable associations of the Covid pandemic and resulting social upheaval that those entail. That might well feel like a few too many threads of socio-cultural influence to weave together as a context for Haimovitz’s wide-ranging collaborations, and, indeed, the temptation is simply to listen and respond to the wealth of music here on its own terms.

Thankfully there’s plenty to enjoy – and to provoke and challenge, too, from the poise and granitic purity of Haimovitz’s own serious-minded multi-cello reimagining of the Kyrie from Josquin’s Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae through to the raucous, relentless workout of Jennifer Jolley’s Compulsive Bloom. Tomeka Reid offers some Brittenesque simplicity in the gently tumbling gestures of her lyrical Volplaning, while David Balakrishnan summons a Jimi Hendrix-like driving dynamism in his compelling Theme and Variants.

It’s a bewilderingly diverse collection, though Haimovitz traces a cunningly considered route through it all, allied to a fierce commitment whatever the music’s style. His delineation of voices and textures is remarkable – in the complementary lines of Missy Mazzoli’s minimalist Beyond the Order of Things (After Josquin), for example, or the wonderfully expressive range of pizzicatos in Niloufar Nourbakhsh’s Cyclical Rabbits – and his unshowy technical agility is matched by an open-minded responsiveness to the pieces’ individual demands and characters. Its high-concept inspirations aside, this is a thoroughly absorbing, constantly surprising collection, captured in close, warm sound.

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Musicians: Matt Haimovitz (cello)

Works: Music by Balakrishnan, Franklin, Getty, Jolley, Josquin, Kim, Macklay, Mazzoli, Muhly, Nourbakhsh, Reid, Seo, Shekhar and Weston

Catalogue number: PENTATONE 5186293