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Review: Yo-Yo Ma brings cello, Bach to Lied

Review: Yo-Yo Ma brings cello, Bach to Lied

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World-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma made his fourth appearance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts Thursday night, and the 2,000 patrons were not disappointed.

Ma played an all-J.S. Bach concert featuring three of the six Cello Suites. The works are well known to Ma music lovers since his 1985 Grammy for “Best Instrumental Soloist” award for an album containing all six suites.

The Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007, was first. Ma bent the tempo well for the opening prelude movement. His tying together of one phrase ending to the next was key to maintaining interest in the flowing sarabande.

The form is the same for the Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011, but the music textures are in stark contrast, with Ma taking an almost secretive approach to the prelude. It seemed to surprise the audience, and they appeared to agree with it. Not shy on the schmooze, Ma poured his heart into the two gavottes, and the audience loved it.

Patrons offered strong applause as some stood and clapped at intermission. But the real test would come with the challenging Suite No. 6 coming up.

The Suite No. 6 in D Major may not have been written for the regular cello. It requires playing in extremely high registers on the four-stringed instrument.

Perfection in playing those high notes marked the entire work, especially the concluding gigue movement. Ma seldom looked at the fingerboard, instead choosing to concentrate on the cohesiveness of the suite. The result was perfection for a standing, cheering Lied audience.

Saying,“OK, this one’s not Bach, but it’s a little bit like Bach,” Ma offered one encore, his oft-played “Appalachia Waltz” written by Mark O’Connor.


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