On November 23, Maximilian Haft will be our violin soloist with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra on Lutosławski’s “Chain 2”, written for Anne-Sophie Mutter and premiered by her in 1986. Below is a short Q&A with him:
Christian Baldini: Hello Max, and welcome back to the place of your origins to perform this powerful piece for violin and orchestra by Witold Lutosławski (Chain 2) with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra. How does it feel to come back here to be featured as a soloist, after being away and living abroad for such a long time?
Maximilian Haft:This is definitely a special moment for me. I’ve lived in Europe for over 10 years (currently in Switzerland). I’ve always made it a point to come back to Northern California at least a few times a year to remain as close as possible to my roots, my family, and to maintain some invaluable musical connections and partnerships I’ve kept in the region. Growing up In Sacramento, taking Jazz lessons in the foothills, classical violin lessons in Fairfield and San Francisco, chamber music camps in Davis; this area means a lot to me and to come back here and to perform In any capacity or any venue is always a special for me.
MH: This will actually be the second time I perform it! It’s one of my favorite pieces of Lutoslawski’s. A very fiery piece, he wrote it towards the end of his life for one of Switzerland’s most revered classical music philanthropists, Paul Sacher. It’s a 4 movement piece each with a very different character. He uses a variety of different timbre in the orchestra, often putting focus on instruments like the bongos, double bass, piano or less conventional orchestral instruments. Often using his typical rhythmic aleatory, there is a space and time continuum that I find only in Lutoslawski’s music.
CB: You’ve been a great advocate of new music and you have collaborated with many living composers. What are some of the most memorable experiences you have had over the years in the new music scene?
MH: I’m blessed to be in a position where the vast majority of my musical ventures and projects are incredibly rewarding! One for the books was probably when I performed Mahler’s 6th Symphony and Schoenberg’s “Erwartung“ with Pierre Boulez at the Lucerne Festival shortly before his passing. I also had the opportunity to perform and work with him on his orchestral work, “Prism, Double Prism“. Boulez was a once-in-a-generation musician, composer, and philosopher, and to work with him in such detail was an incredibly influential and timeless experience.
CB: Why is new music important? What would you say to someone who presents the argument “I want to go to the hall to listen to my Brahms, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and not much further please”?
MH: Music is impossible without movement, risk, failure; This is what evolution seeks for in music. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being more drawn to listen to a particular composer or style. Contemporary music for some has a particular taboo that is simply false. Typical criticisms are that there’s the absence of melody or of a simple rhythm. Sometimes I find that listeners don’t challenge themselves enough. We live in the age of instant gratification and this has unfortunately penetrated certain musical airwaves. Music is about patience and I think we forget that sometimes.
Maximilian Haft was born in 1985 in Sacramento. He studied violin at the New England Conservatory of Music with Masuko Ushioda and at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with Vera Beths. He enjoys playing new music and has performed with Ensemble Klang (The Hague), Ensemble musikFabrik (Cologne) and Ensemble Contrechamps (Geneva). In 2009 he graduated from the Asko|Schönberg Ligeti Academy. In 2010 he received the HSP Huygens Scholarship and was a finalist in the Storioni Chamber Music Competition. In 2010 and 2011 he took part in the Lucerne Festival Academy during which he worked with Pierre Boulez and Ensemble Intercontemporain. Most recently he performed the solo part of Witold Lutoslawski’s violin concerto Chain II with the Noord Nederlands Orkest to critical acclaim. He performs regularly with The Hague String Variation, De Nieuwe Philharmonie Utrecht, Bern Camerata and the Metropole Orkest and has recorded for Mode Records, Hänssler Classic, Wergo, Musiques Suisse and FYO Records.