Yo-Yo Ma/Kathryn Stott, Barbican Hall, London
Thursday 18 December 2008
They sit closer than do most duo recitalists, reflecting the now intimate nature of their musical partnership. Indeed there was one note of Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata in A minor when a pizzicato in the cello and a staccato quaver in the right hand of the piano chimed in such a way as to belie the fact that there was absolutely no eye contact. Pure musical telepathy.
In the first movement of the Schubert, embellishments tripped off Ma's bow so deftly that it was impossible to imagine that he had actually fingered them, while Stott's graceful touch kept the rhythmic elements buoyant. The balance between the two instrumental voices was perfection with both players finding countless ways of nuancing their sound so as to let the harmony shine through.
And so to the Shostakovich Sonata in D minor where the lyric ideas were made to sound more akin to Schubert than one might have thought possible. Ma's sound never quite reflected the Russianism of the musical dialect, though the gritty gopak of the scherzo kicked up dust, drifting eerily into bizarre glissando harmonics in the trio. Premonitions here of the soulful largo where subtle half-shades brought a sombre reality to the work's Tchaikovskian reveries.
No eroticism there but plenty in Piazzolla's "Le Grand Tango" which they played like seasoned dancing partners alternating between sexy insinuation and stomping audacity.
Their game was raised to new highs with the Franck Sonata in A. The discreet classicism of the opening movement quickly dropped all pretence of formality in this impassioned performance, the torrential scherzo notching up the intensity and drawing from Ma that aspirational singing tone that so totally reflects the generosity of the man.
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