Matt Haimovitz; photo Brent Calis

"There are a handful of human beings in our history that you sort of can’t imagine the world without their existence,” Matt Haimovitz said in response to a question about the never-ending importance of Johann Sebastian Bach. “You think of Shakespeare, for example, and I think Bach is one of those people. He somehow balances the heart and the head and spirituality and human nature. I find that everything comes together in a way that is so universal. It is a mystery and also how prolific he was and the breadth of what he composed. For us cellists, it is our bible, the foundation of our repertoire.”

Haimovitz, who is renowned for his solo recitals, offers three this weekend in Santa Fe: at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, at the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Company, and at the Scottish Rite Center. At each one, he alternates selections from Bach’s solo cello suites with related pieces by six composers he commissioned: Philip Glass, Du Yun, Vijay Iyer, Roberto Sierra, David Sanford, and Luna Pearl Woolf. The sequence was recorded on his 2016 album Overtures to Bach (on the Oxingale label he and his wife, Woolf, established). Haimovitz’s phrasings and emphases on the Bach suites are always innovative and personal, but his performances of the works by Yun and the others are often extravagantly spirited, sometimes veering into wild and atonal territories.

The cellist, born in Bat Yam, Israel, made his debut in 1984, at the age of thirteen, with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. His Carnegie Hall debut came with a last-minute substitution for his teacher, Leonard Rose. Haimovitz and Shlomo Mintz, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, and Pinchas Zukerman performed Schubert’s String Quintet in C. Bach is a deep favorite, but this is an adventurous musician: His 50-state Anthem tour in 2003 celebrated living American composers and featured his arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s screamingly beautiful Woodstock performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”