CAMBRIDGE -- Maverick cello virtuoso Matt Haimovitz has performed Bach at the punk club CBGB and played Jimi Hendrix's version of ''The Star Spangled Banner" in classical concert halls. His current ''Goulash!" tour celebrates his Romanian roots and focuses on Central European composers, with characteristic side journeys.
Friday night at Sanders Theatre, Haimovitz began with a gently commanding version of the rippling Prelude to Bach's Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello.
Next came Tod Machover's ''Dadiji in Paradise," a disjointed catalog of modernist string techniques: ghostly harmonics, low-register rasps, queasy sliding chords, and snapping pizzicato.
Gyorgy Ligeti's Sonata for Cello Solo sat in a closet for decades before Haimovitz made the world-premiere recording in 1990. An affecting, compactly constructed piece, it opened with yearning, folklike melodies, then built to rapid, whirling passages before ending abruptly.
David Sanford composed ''Seventh Avenue Kaddish" for Haimovitz in response to 9/11. An anguished meditation on the musician's role in tragedy's wake, it counterpoised urgent Morse Code-like repetitions with surging virtuosic passages. Romanian composer Adrian Pop's engaging ''Gordun" featured traditional Transylvanian melodies and rhythms.
Osvaldo Golijov's darkly abstract tango ''Omaramor" closed the first half of the concert with sweeping melodies and impetuous arpeggios that seemed a distant Argentine echo of Bach.
The second half opened with Zoltan Kodaly's monumental Sonata for Cello Solo. Haimovitz captured its somber drama without histrionics. Displaying his exhilarating mastery, he ranged from barely audible notes to startlingly full chordal textures, from singing, vibrato-laden lines to gutsy, rasping stabs. He ended to thunderous applause.
Three cellists joined Haimovitz onstage, forming a quartet, to play four of Bela Bartok's ''Romanian Dances" in delightfully transparent arrangements by composer Luna Pearl Woolf. Then the quartet launched enthusiastically into ''Kashmir," Led Zeppelin's slice of heavy metal exotica. Haimovitz played the melody, Sung Pyung Chu drummed on his cello with hands and bow, and Amelia Jakobsson and Judith Manger plucked and sawed the song's blocky riffs. Good fun, if muddy at times and too long by half.
For his encore Haimovitz returned to Bach's first suite, for an oddly static Sarabande in which each phrase seemed to float lonely amid silence.