The 2014 Gesher Music Festival of Emerging Artists opens this week in St. Louis. This year the festival opening gala features cellist Matt Haimovitz, who is known for pushing the envelope and blurring the lines between classical and popular music.
“I have a range of passions musically, and I tend to just follow my heart,” said Haimovitz when asked about his sometimes unusual musical choices. He’s been known to take his cello to a bar and play the music of Jimi Hendrix.
Gesher is Hebrew for a bridge or connection, and the idea behind the festival was to bridge a gap in St. Louis, said Kathleen Sitzer, artistic director of the New Jewish Theatre and producer of the festival.
“What we’re doing with Gesher, I think is quite unique,” said Sitzer.
Unlike most Jewish music festivals, Gesher has no folk music or traditional Jewish music. Instead, it is entirely dedicated to classical music that has a Jewish connection.
“Either (the music is) by a Jewish composer, or someone who was influenced by an exposure to Judaism, or (it was) written in a concentration camp, there are all kinds of ways that we have found these bridges or connections, and we’re trying to build those bridges in the community to try and make it a more multicultural experience,” said Sitzer.
While Haimovitz doesn’t like to announce his program ahead of time, he did give some hints of what he might play at the opening gala on Sunday.
“I will play some Bach, of course. The Program is called Beyond Bach,” said Haimovitz.
He is likely to play a new piece by Philip Glass and a “metaphysical” piece by Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaÿe. And In the second half of the program he plans to play a suite of short pieces by American composers.
“I tend to end with an arrangement of a pop tune if the audience is very good,” he added.
The opening gala featuring Haimovitz is at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Centene Auditorium in Clayton. Haimovitz will also give a master class on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at the Community Music School of Webster University. The festival continues through June 29 with concerts in a number of locations. For a full list of Gesher Music Festival events, see the festival’s website.