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As soloist in the rarely heard Cello Concerto by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) Ms Alsop welcomed musical superstar Yo-Yo Ma. Written for the Russian cello virtuoso Raya Garbousova, the concerto exploits the instrument's difficult high register. Barber's boundless melodic inspiration takes inspired flight from the surging opening movement through the moving, poignant Andante and rousing bravura finale. Yo-Yo Ma met every daunting challenge of this wonderful score. His performance was a model of superlative instrumental display without affectation.

Yo-Yo Ma performs the Barber Cello Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood on 20 August 2005. Photo © 2005 Walter H Scott
Yo-Yo Ma performs the Barber Cello Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood on 20 August 2005. Photo © 2005 Walter H Scott

On 16 August at the Florence Gould Auditorium of Seiji Ozawa Hall on Tanglewood's Leonard Bernstein Campus, Yo-Yo Ma joined piano dynamo Emanuel Ax in an all Beethoven recital. For the first half of the program the cellist played a modified quasi Baroque instrument while Ax caressed the keyboard of a fortepiano. While these instruments produced thinner tone than their modern counterparts, the richness of Ma's cello tone (with gut strings that produce a much darker sound) and Ax's scintillating keyboard wizardry produced sprightly, aristocratic performances -- the essence of great artistry! In Beethoven's Cello Sonata No 5 in D, Op 102 No 2, the musicians' delicately embroidered melodic lines and insightful phrasing of the score's long limbed thematic material was exhilarating. For the evening's second half Ma played a 1733 Venetian Montagnana cello while Ax was seated at his customary modern Steinway. They vividly captured the demonic brilliance of the Scherzo of Beethoven's Cello Sonata No 3 in A, Op 69 while the dance rhythms of the concluding Allegro fugato were wonderfully alive. A memorable concert!

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Copyright © 31 August 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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