Maya Beiser Offers a Concert of Both Rock and Reverence

The New York Times

Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” the encore that the versatile cellist Maya Beiser added to her program “All Vows,” at BAM Fisher on Wednesday, proved not only compelling in itself but also useful in rounding out a disjointed evening. “Flourishes of the sacred and profane,” her website promised of the performance, and she delivered all that and more.

The first half offered rock and blues classics in arrangements by Evan Ziporyn, beginning with Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and new pieces by Glenn Kotche and David T. Little. Superbly accompanied by Jherek Bischoff on bass and Zachary Alford on drums, Ms. Beiser wailed loud and hard on an amplified cello or a skeletal-looking electric instrument, her lines enhanced by prerecorded tracks or electronic delay.

Appropriations like these are commonly known as covers, but Ms. Beiser likes to call hers “uncovers,” implying that she is searching for the very core of the song. That characterization seemed apt in some numbers, like Nirvana’s “Lithium,” but the Gershwins’ “Summertime” had traveled a long way from its essence through the hands of Janis Joplin and Mr. Ziporyn to those of Ms. Beiser.

Ms. Beiser described Mr. Kotche’s “Three Parts Wisdom,” written for her without accompaniment, as “Bach on meth,” and she negotiated its furious tremolos and other challenges with consummate virtuosity.

Things took a couple of sharp turns after intermission, beginning with variations on a theme — the Jewish prayer Kol Nidre, recited during Yom Kippur — by Mohammed Fairouz and Michael Gordon. “Mohammed, a Muslim Arab-American, and I, a Jewish Israeli-American,” Ms. Beiser writes in the program booklet, “share a vision: We believe in the power of music to heal and unite.” 

Still, Ms. Beiser’s performance was riveting and thoroughly wedded to the idiom, just as her earlier rock-outs and reverential meditations had been. 

Read the rest of the review here