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Yo-Yo Ma is at the top of his game

Posted 7:07am on Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010

FORT WORTH -- A recital by cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Tuesday at Bass Hall reiterated to music lovers why Cliburn at the Bass is one of the best classical concert series in the country. Ma is simply phenomenal, at 54 at the top of his game. He and pianist Kathryn Stott -- a trusted collaborator of 30 years -- played a traditionally structured recital to a sold-out house.

Ma continues the legacy of the great virtuosos of the last century -- so secure in technique and immersed in music that even demanding passages flow effortlessly off his bow. The ribbony melodies of Schubert's Sonata in A minor (originally for an obscure, fretted instrument called the arpeggione) unspooled gracefully, his cello skating with a light, glassy tone.

The Sonata in D minor by Shostakovich was substantial, heady with emotion, restlessness folded into the petals of a rose. In the Largo, Ma's cello sang a melody pungent with bitterness and resolve that wound toward resignation.

Nowhere was the exquisite communication between cellist and piano better demonstrated than during Astor Piazzolla's Le Grand Tango, when the hip-swaying rhythms flowed naturally into dramatic climaxes and breathless eddies, and then bounded forward again.

The magical Bodas de Prata & Quatro Cantos by Brazilian Egberto Gismonti created a musical Pandora, with Stott inserting bell-like chimes and sparkling swooshes into a shadowy, Impressionist jungle painted by Ma.

In Franck's Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano, transcribed for the cello, the wave-like melody was first cradled by the piano, then agitated before concluding in an open-hearted theme. Two encores, one jangly and Spanish, the next a sweet pastiche, brought the standing audience down from the heights -- a fine cap to a thrilling evening.

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