Clasical: Tango the way Ma makes it
Yo-Yo Ma Royal Festival Hall, London
Monday 24 November 1997
The recital's first half was dominated, musically speaking, by Brahms's heroic Second Cello Sonata, where Ma's lean but small tone strained to out-sing Kathryn Stott's over-prominent piano. The first movement was too fast for comfort, a miscalculation that the hall's unsympathetic acoustic served to exaggerate. Ma's agility was more seen than heard: he'd gaze skyward while his left hand scaled the cello's neck. Brahms's Allegro vivace needs a bigger tone, richer characterisation and more powerful projection, though the Allegro passionata prompted spectacular wrist-work. But if the showman upstaged the musician in the first and third movements, the Adagio affettuoso witnessed a welcome spot of self-communing, with a streamlined thread of tone and some throbbing pizzicatos.
The concert had opened with Stravinsky's Suite Italienne. Again, Stott's virtuosity was more audible than Ma's. The recital's second half kept to the 20th century, with Ma's skilful transcription of Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata offering most in the way of imagination, tonal variety and phrasal sophistication. This was Ma shining resplendent, though his harmless re- working of Gershwin's Piano Preludes saw him loosening up for the last lap.
The closing Le Grand Tango of the Piazzolla sequence was page after page of musical heavy-breathing, just the job for a wine bar, perhaps with cello and accordion and some subtle percussion - but for cello and piano? Hundreds looked on silently where there should have been laughter, dancing, seduction: it was the perfect case-study of a musical mistranslation, although the sheer energy and rhythmic thrust prompted a standing ovation. One wondered what people were applauding - the music, the performance or the concept of a classical artist tackling up-beat cross-over. I'd wager the latter, though Elgar's Salut d'amour and Manuel de Falla's "Polo" (the last of his Seven Popular Spanish Songs) were almost as well received. But only almost. Ma and Stott were recalled twice, then we all turned to leave. If the encore had been more Piazzolla, it might have been a different story.
Life & Style blogs
When did the Eiffel Tower open to the public? Six things you didn't know about the iconic structure
Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
Gold Apple Watch buyers can skip queues
Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
The ‘anti-ball crushing’ trousers are so popular they've sold out online
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Dylan Moran on quitting smoking, being about as sexy as the Pope and why comedy panel programmes are 'c*ck shows'
- 5 Modern society encapsulated in five seconds
£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...
£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...
£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...
£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...