Tod Machover's Sorta Voce was commissioned by cellist Matt Haimovitz as part of his new “Primavera Project,” and will appear on the first CD release of the project on the PENTATONE label in June 2021. The piece will be performed by Haimovitz on July 16 as part of the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, VT.
Haimovitz’s project is a collaboration of music and art inspired by one of the most widely admired and enigmatic paintings of the Renaissance, Botticelli’s Primavera (ca 1480), and the reimagining of the Primavera by world-renowned contemporary artist Charline von Heyl in her own large-scale painting. Haimovitz says, “In our new reality of the global pandemic and social upheaval, both Primavera paintings’ composition, characters, symbolism, nature and flora, darkness and light, mythology, identity, and spirituality are ripe for reflection and new interpretations. Each composer has been asked to compose a work interpreting the paintings from a present-day perspective, embracing our shared humanity and contributing to a contemporary culturally relevant Renaissance.”
Machover’s Sorta Voce, composed in early 2021, is for unamplified solo cello, with an optional vocal obligato by the cellist. Like Botticelli’s painting, it explores the power and ambiguity of breath – both from the mouth and using a new cello technique developed by Machover – which the composer says “can destroy as well as sustain, begin life as well as end it.” Sorta Voce is both very rapid and very quiet, often on the edge of inaudibility and on the verge of revealing the simple, haunting melody that ties the piece together and is heard in entirety only near the end of the work. In this way, Sorta Voce explores the will to persist, the longing for rebirth after tough times, and the acceptance of life’s constant ebb-and-flow.