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Concert Review/ Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott

img  Tobias Fischer

Schubert: Sonata in A Minor for Arpeggione and Piano, D.821
Shostakovich: Sonata in D Minor for Cello and Piano, Op.40
Gismonti/Carneiro: Bodas de Prata and Quatro Canto (arr. Gismonti)
Franck: Violin Sonata in A Major (arr. for cello and piano)

Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
Kathryn Stott, Piano

     Classical music lovers who enjoy chamber, instrumental and vocal recitals have certainly welcomed the year-old establishment of the Telus Center for the Performing Arts. The Koerner Hall, a 1135 seat venue located at the heart of this complex, has housed programs by such luminaries in the classical music industry that included Yefim Bronfman, Emerson String Quartet, Jon Kimura Parker, Christian Tetzlaff, Andras Schiff, and Yuja Wang, to name but a few. In this new 2011-2012 season, Torontonians can further save up on their traveling budgetary and enjoy musical figures locally at the Koerner Hall. These will include seminars delivered by pianist-pedagogue Alfred Brendel and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, and recitals that will feature pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Hélène Grimaud, Olga Kern, Simone Dinnerstein, and celebrated international artists like Anne Sofie von Otter, Gidon Kremer, among others. For further details, check out here on their detailed programs.

     To kick-off their new concert season in a grand style, the organizers have invited cellist Yo-Yo Ma and British pianist Kathryn Stott in an intimate recital sold to a full-house audience. Additional seats were set on stage for extra ticket holders. Before the two artists assumed their position on stage, a delivery address was given by Mr. Michael Foulkes and Dr. Peter Simon. This was followed by a brief ceremony on stage, in which an Honorary Degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music was conferred to Mr. Darren Entwistle, president of TELUS Corporation.
     Starting with the Arpeggione Sonata, one of the most-celebrated cello compositions written in the late years of Schubert’s life, Ma and Stott quickly captured the audience in an aural experience of lyricism and tranquility. In the opening Allegro moderato, the differences between the exposition and its repeat were cleverly executed by Ma with subtle variations in tone and character. Melodies from his instrument continue to soar with grace and charm in the Adagio movement, while the piano accompaniment provided by Stott matched in both skill and brilliance throughout the piece. In the Finale, Stott in particular brought out a kaleidoscopic range of emotions on her piano part without ever dominating the cello lines. Next on the programme was Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata Op.40, his only in this form written in 1934 at the age of 27. The pair started off in a modest tempo for this movement marked Allegro non troppo, which provided Ma with a platform to highlight the first movement’s lyrical theme that he later assumed with even more passionate outflow when the theme returned on the cello. Impressive also was Stott’s ability to turn the piano part effectively into a sort of Danse Macabre, dark but full of sarcasm in character, which she further elaborated with heated volatility in the scherzo-like Allegro second movement . The Largo demonstrated the singing quality of our cellist, one that was dominated by hopelessness in character. Shostakovich then intelligently pushed the technical limits of the piano and cello parts in the finale Allegro movement. Here, the audience no doubt were mesmerized by the jaw-dropping techniques evident from the busy dialogues exchanged between the two instruments. Plugged strings, glissandi and busy hand crossovers were prerequisites for both players. In particular, the explosive piano part delivered by Stott turned the music into a march-like scherzo, reminiscent to the volcanic moments Shostakovich assumed three years later in his Symphony No.5. To wrap-up the first part of the recital, the duo gave a rendition of Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango characterized by rhythmic zest and finesse. It surely echoed the comment which Ma has praised previously on the work, as “inextricable rhythmic sense … total freedom, passion, ecstasy.”

     The Duo resumed on stage after a brief intermission in the second half of the programme with two Brazilians folk-songs written by Egberto Gismonti and poet Geraldo Carneiro. The two scores, Bodas de Prata (Silver Wedding Anniversary) and Quatro Cantos (Four Songs) highlight again the vocal qualities of the cello instrument, and in particular, showcase the silk-like character indigenous to Ma’s cantabile line. Likewise, the piano parts delivered by Ms. Stott assumed a character spanning midway between the impressionistic Debussy- and dreamy Faure-like styles, affirming the atmospheric mood of these miniatures. Franck’s celebrated Sonata for Violin and Piano from 1886 hardly requires introduction for any serious classical music aficionados. Although this arrangement for cello and piano does not perhaps capture the full palette of colours as the original score written for violin and piano, Ma nevertheless gave an affirmative reading on his melodic episodes delivered on the cello. Rather than delivering them as matter-of-facts throughout the four movements, Ma assuredly planned his way throughout the piece in an effective manner. In return, this allowed the listener to acquire a sense that cumulative drama was the focus behind the duo’s interpretation. It was no surprise that with the enthusiastic rounds of applause coming from the audience, the Ma-Stott partnership would not be able to leave the Hall without an additional bon-bon or two. Answering the whistles and cheers, they delivered no less two encores: “Cristal” written by Brazilian composer Cesar Camargo Mariano and the ever so famous “Salut d’Amour” by Edward Elgar.

     An exciting season has surely gone off into a great start. Stay-tuned on Tokafi for further reviews on what promises to be an illustrious Koerner Hall concert season.

By Patrick P.L. Lam

Picture by Patrick P.L. Lam

Homepage: Yo-Yo Ma
Homepage: Kathryn Stott

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