Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Yo-Yo, Ma!

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Yo-Yo Ma concert tonight with the CSO as part of our subscription. I've heard him play many times on TV and radio, and I own his recordings, but had never heard him play live.

The concert was an all Dvorak program, bizarrely opening with three successive overtures. The first was In Nature’s Realm, the weakest by far, sounding a little too much like the "Morgenstemning" of Grieg's Peer Gynt, except without the catchy melodies. This was followed by the more common Carnival Overture, which is bold and brassy and exciting, and would have been a better opening to the show. The third overture seemed even more superfluous, the Othello Overture, which seemed a little similar to the New World Symphony, which also ended big and brassy. I would rather have heard one overture, and maybe several of the Slavonic Danses to fill out the concert.

The concert was conducted by Julian Kuerti, assistant at the BSO, who was good, but I would much rather have had regular conductor Jeffrey Kahane.

The highlight of the evening was of course the Cello Concerto as performed by Yo-Yo Ma. During the intermission, I wondered how much life he could breathe into a piece that he had probably played at least 1000 times. He quickly put my fears to rest as he leaped fully into the piece in the opening bars. He is an amazing performer, and very exciting to watch. Unlike some other soloists, he is clearly very happy to be there, and listens carefully to every other instrument in the orchestra. If there was any criticism, it would be that the dark color of his instrument did not carry well in the hall over the orchestra.

As good as the concerto was, his unaccompanied Bach encore was much more moving. I didn't recognize the piece, buti t was very beautiful and he played with a broad emotional range. Well worth the ticket price.
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