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Haimovitz And Burleson: A Classic 'Odd Couple'

Matt Haimovitz may not fit some people's perceptions of a traditional classical musician. Early in his career, the virtuoso cellist performed in atypical venues such as bars and pizza joints, but his unique tone and approach to the instrument — and its standard repertoire — earned high praise.

While primarily known for his recordings of Bartok and Bach's Suites for Cello, Haimovitz has also gained a reputation by livening up his performances with stirring renditions of Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star Spangled Banner" and his four-cello arrangement of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." He has since become one of the most in-demand and exciting young performers in classical music.

Haimovitz's latest project, Odd Couple, is a collaboration with pianist Geoffrey Burleson, on which they play the repertoire of composers David Sanford, Samuel Barber, Elliott Carter and Augusta Read Thomas.

After studies at Princeton and Harvard — and instruction from legendary cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Leonard Rose — Haimovitz founded his own record label, Oxingale, and is a professor of cello at McGill University in Montreal, a position he has held since 2004. He also maintains a nonstop touring schedule, appearing solo, performing with his all-cello band Uccello, and currently collaborating with Burleson in support of Odd Couple.

Studying at the Peabody and New England Conservatories and Stony Brook University under Gilbert Kalish, Burleson is currently teaches piano at Princeton University. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Piano and the Director of Performance Studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Burleson typically performs and records as a solo pianist and most recently with Vincent Persichetti's Complete Piano Sonatas.

Here, the two men discuss their musical partnership and perform selections from their new recording in NPR's Studio 4A.

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