Clasical: Tango the way Ma makes it
Yo-Yo Ma Royal Festival Hall, London
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
Guest post by Richard Sexton, business development director of e.surv chartered surveyors
Plus lateral thinking and living on London's waterways
Other popular areas include Didsbury, Clifton in Bristol, central Cambridge and West Bridgford
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.