Vignettes: Two Cellos
Hayden and Vivaldi performed in the same program? Music for two cellos? I wasn’t so sure about Hayden (I am not very familiar with his work), but Vivaldi will be forever connected in my mind with his “Four Seasons”. A full orchestration with sweeping movement, producing majestic images of nature’s incredible beauty in all its variations. So, my curiosity was aroused by the idea of Vivaldi writing a concerto for two cellos.
To the sound of applause the first violinist entered, bowed, and set about the business of “tuning up” the orchestra. Cacophony of sound; I always wonder how they manage to get in tune in the midst of such discordance? A moment’s pause and the conductor entered; more applause. Graceful of movement, he ascended the rostrum and bowed to the audience. Turning back to face the door he had just entered from, he extended a hand and the two cellists came onto the stage: Matt Haimovitz and Alexei Romanenko.
With interest I studied the two young men as they took their introductory bows. Physically they were very different, Matt being short and stocky with long hair gathered in a pony tail, while Alex was tall and slim with short almost military-cut hair. This difference also manifested in the way they dressed. Although it was somber grey, Matt wore a flamboyant, Edwardian length velvet coat over a collarless, open-at-the-neck, white shirt, and black pants. Alexi on the other hand was dressed like most of the orchestra members – black shirt and black pants. My curiosity was piqued even more.
As the music began my heart soared with the artistic beauty of it. The first movement was fast paced and I was lifted along with the liveliness of it all. I noticed how “contained” Alexi was, yet there was a quiet passion about him as he played within his own small, private circle. I found myself thinking, “still waters run deep”.
The same could not be said about his fellow cellist. I have never seen so much movement erupt from one person in a symphony orchestra!! His whole body was in constant motion, rather like a marionette at the hands of a mad puppeteer. His head jerked from side to side and seemed to belong to a different body from his arms, which had a rhythm all of their own.
His hands came from another planet, the left one flying up and down the chords at speeds that left me breathless, while the right hand furiously drew the bow back and forth and up and down. Then there were his legs and feet creating a frenzied dance of their own, sometimes both of them lifted off the floor at the same time defying him to keep balance on his chair. He not only went outside his own personal circle of space, he also made it quite clear that he would invade anyone’s circle that happened to be close by.
I was transfixed, mesmerized. Two very different people, each unique in his own way, but the music and their individual passion united them as one. Between them they created a sensory magic that was difficult to describe. They held the audience captive and I vaguely noticed most people sitting forward in their seats as though they were being drawn in by some invisible force.
Then came a moment that transcended magic and passed into the realm of mystique. The second movement contained passages that were lively and yet others that were slower, more peaceful. Then, all of a sudden, the only person playing was Matt. After a series of high energy, all-over-the-place chords, he executed a succession of lighter melodic phrases that began at the low end of the scale. Slowly, very slowly, he worked his way up the scale until he produced a single, exquisite, silver, soprano note that hung in the air like a thread of the lightest, finest, spun silk. I was suspended in pure joy and peace.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the concert. It was full of passion and talent and magic. But I shall be forever grateful for that one note that transported me to another realm. That one note that granted me access, just for a few moments, to a place that hung between the spiritual and mystery.