Cellist Matt Haimovitz's Multicultural 'Goulash'

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The cover of Matt Haimovitz's 'Goulash'

The cover of Matt Haimovitz's Goulash hide caption

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Although cellist Matt Haimovitz was raised in the United States, he was born in the Middle East to Romanian parents. His new CD, Goulash, explores his family's heritage. Music critic Tom Manoff says that it also touches on an ongoing debate about the future of classical music.


Cellist Matt Haimovitz was born in the Middle East to Romanian parents, but he was raised in the United States. On his new CD "Goulash!," he stretches the boundaries of classical music, drawing inspiration from his Romanian heritage and from electronic music. Our critic Tom Manoff has a review.

(Soundbite of instrumental music)

TOM MANOFF reporting:

The debate almost a century ago was about folk music. One side believed that folk music was an inherently lower tradition that would contaminate classical music. The other side, championed by the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, held that folk music could revitalize classical styles. Here's some of Bartok's Romanian folk dances. Originally for piano, they're performed by Matt Haimovitz with an all-cello ensemble.

(Soundbite of Romanian folk dances)

MANOFF: "Goulash" is the name of this new recording from Matt Haimovitz and it comes at a time when the future of classical music is again in flux. Haimovitz, a longtime advocate for the inclusion of folk and popular elements, has turned to Bartok as the inspiration for this recording and half the album is devoted to Bartok's music. But Matt Haimovitz is also looking for new infusions. The title track is an improvisation by Haimovitz with electronic performance artist DJ Olive.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MANOFF: Matt Haimovitz produces some amazing sounds on this album that expand our notions of what a cello can do. Here he makes the cello sound as if it were an instrument from the Middle East.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MANOFF: But Haimovitz also plays with a traditional sound that is lush, lyrical and, at times, magically tender. This is music for solo cello by the Romanian composer Adrian Pop written especially for this album.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MANOFF: One of the most fruitful collaborations on this recording is between Matt Haimovitz and legendary guitarist John McLaughlin. The performers improvise on folk-based music by Osvaldo Golijov.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MANOFF: Some say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but that's not the case here. The overall taste of this music is quite rich. It's playful and serious, contemporary and historical, Western and Eastern, classical and folk. Matt Haimovitz has given us a goulash that defies description. I guess that's what a good goulash is all about.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

BLOCK: The new CD from Matt Haimovitz is called "Goulash!" Our reviewer is Tom Manoff.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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