Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Review: Yo-Yo Ma gives flawless show with pianist Kathryn Stott during Bing Concert Hall

Review: Yo-Yo Ma gives flawless show with pianist Kathryn Stott during Bing Concert Hall

Yo-Yo Ma isn't Superman; he only seems like it. During a cellist's Sunday show with pianist Kathryn Stott during Stanford's Bing Concert Hall, one had a sense that zero can go wrong when he performs. It's his palliate and soulfulness, a singular combination. It creates everything feel right.

Stott, too, is a unqualified player, and this module managed to be as light-footed as it was stirring. Longtime low-pitched partners, these dual musicians are like champion dancers who expect each other's moves: a slightest bends and turns or thespian leaps. They listen and respond, figure and give way. Their personification is superb and from a heart.

On Sunday, they hopped behind and onward across repertory from Europe and Latin America, commencement with a reading of Igor Stravinsky's "Suite italienne" from "Pulcinella." Playing Gregor Piatigorsky's transcription for cello and piano, it was best during its many quiet: a gorgeous shifting cello chords of a Serenata.

Soon after, a duo played Heitor Villa-Lobos's "Alma brasileira" ("Soul of Brazil"), a fifth of his "Choros" series, that was sorrowfully verse -- yet perhaps not as melancholy as Astor Piazzolla's famous "Oblivion." Its thespian melody was drawn out, milked and detailed (though not overly so) by Ma, whose final notes, grazed and whispered, were kind of incredible.

The centerpiece of a program's initial half was Manuel de Falla's "Siete Canciones Populares Españolas" ("Seven Popular Spanish Songs"). "Asturiana," a third song, achieved a just-before-daybreak quietness, something tighten to silence, conveying both probability and lament. "Jota," a fourth song, slowed in a manner of a tango: time seemed to widen out, stop and start again. "Cancion," a sixth song, quickly came and went, a love-struck dream.

Sounds terrific, right? It was, yet this beautiful new hall, acoustically speaking, can be a challenge.


This was my fourth unison in 842-seat Bing, that opened Jan. 11, and we once again found a sound to be idiosyncratic. we was seated in a patio just left of center, where a sound lacked immediacy. It was not so comfortable or full as one would wish it to be, generally in a chamber-sized venue like this one, where a seats approximate and cradle a stage. The sound was rather masked, as if nearing from a distance, yet I was seated usually about 50 feet from a performers.

Perhaps Ma and Stott were holding the sign of a place, acoustically. Early in a program, gift passages in a Stravinsky were muddy, generally if Ma energetically strummed chords in his instrument's reduce register. (And if Stott's chording concurrently took her into a bass register, that was a double whammy.) By a recital's second half, a duo achieved distant more unchanging clarity of sound, though, again, a hall didn't embrace a musicians, didn't move out adequate of their warmth.

The clearest and many profound opening of a evening followed intermission: Olivier Messiaen's "Louange à l'éternité de Jésus" ("Praise to a Eternity of Jesus"), from his Quartet for a End of Time, stoical while a Frenchman was interned in a German prisoner-of-war stay during World War II. With Ma coaxing and afterwards wresting a broad, long-noted tune over Stott's ringing chords, this work came by as a low interior cry, magnifying and descending across metaphorical distances. The opening turned Bing into a chapel.

Next was a glorious reading of Brahms' Violin Sonata in D minor, organised for cello.


Stott's hold and textures were purify and perspicacious -- giveaway and airy, with space somehow surrounding any note, even when a pianist was personification cascades of them. Combined with Ma's own giveaway and ardent song, a Adagio achieved a palatable sense of romance, yet tempered by that other partial of Brahms, his reserve. The culmination built to a fury, and a duo seemed to have mastered a hall; we could hear each note.

Amid a station ovation, Ma dedicated a first of a duo's encores -- Edward Elgar's "Salut d'amour" ("Love's Greeting") -- to Peter and Helen Bing, a hall's benefactors, who were in a audience. The acclaim was huge; a lovefest, sadly, was sketch to a close.

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