At the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, virtuosos Dinnerstein/Haimovitz come together for the “Then and Now” program that pairs Beethoven and Philip Glass
By John Lavitt
Beverly Hills, California (The Hollywood Times) 1/13/20 –
On Thursday, January 9th, the 2020 season at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills began with a rousing celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827). Renowned pianist Simone Dinnerstein and acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz came together to create a musical celebration. Rather than just playing classic Beethoven, they paired the legendary composer’s works with compositions by Philip Glass (b.1937), one of contemporary music’s most influential musical geniuses.
Named “Then and Now,” the classical program went back and forth between the works of Beethoven and Glass, highlighting joint pieces for both piano and cello as well as solo works by Glass for each instrument. The program by the two virtuosos included Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas Op.102 No. 1 and No. 2, as well as Partita No. 2 for Solo Cello and Mad Rush for Solo Piano by Philip Glass. By bringing the two composers together, the musicians showed how the ongoing relevancy of Beethoven’s genius through the modern commentary in the compositions of Philip Glass.
Paul Crewes, Artistic Director of The Wallis, describes the coming together of the two virtuosos; “Simone Dinnerstein and Matt Haimovitz have consistently pursued innovative project-oriented work throughout their independent careers. It is particularly notable that they have joined together for this unique musical project, which showcases both their collaborative and solo artistry through the lens of Beethoven and his continuing influence today.”
By starting with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata Op. 102 No. 1, the performers rooted the audience in the classical tradition. The composition feels like a romantic courtship between the cello and the violin. A significant element of the performance is the creative intimacy shared by the two musicians. Going back and forth between flourishes, there is a give and take that feels like a successful courtship. However, once Beethoven passes, the next phase of the performance changes the perspective.
When cellist Matt Haimovitz performs Partita No. 2 for Solo Cello, there is a sense that the successful courtship has failed, and the cello is left to perform alone on stage. The melancholy tones of Philip Glass offer a new look at Beethoven, uncovering the darker themes of modernity as well as a lingering sense of emotional despair. Although the piece rises from the darkness and finds a new spiritual bearing, the loss of connection with the violin remains as the first part of the program came to a close.
The highlight of the second half of the program is pianist Simone Dinnerstein performing Mad Rush for Solo Piano by Philip Glass. Intently focused as a soloist on stage, Dinnerstein captures the complexity of the composition by Glass. As the rapid pace of modern life seems to overwhelm the music, there is a quiet redemption beneath the mad rush. Although life moves incredibly fast, creation allows fragile human beings to find their bearings and connect to a spiritual sublime.
At times, as Simone Dinnerstein’s fingers crashed into the keys to keep pace with the crazed composition by Glass, a fear that velocity will prove overwhelming becomes hard to bear. Will we be able to survive in the whirlwind of technology and speed? After all, from a universal perspective, homo sapiens came down from the trees quite recently. Still, the triumph of the performance is the certainty that our roots will hold. The artistry expressed by both pianist Simone Dinnerstein and cellist Matt Haimovitz reassures anxious monkeys in a time when the high branches of safety seem so far away.