Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott in Blacksburg

November 5, 2017, 6:26 PM · This afternoon my family and I attended a beautiful recital performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott. Of course I could write for hours about the amazing all-Russian program – Stravinsky Suite Italienne, Prokofiev Sonata in C Op. 119, and Rachmaninoff Sonata in G minor Op. 19. The soul-melting melodies and rich, shifting harmonies of these incredible composers. The whispering pianissimos from Ma’s bow matched by Stott’s deft touch. The soaring soprano of the cello’s upper register piercing like lightning through thunderstorms emanating from the giant Steinway. And the perfect, pin-drop acoustics of the gorgeous Fife Theater in Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center, which celebrated its four-year anniversary this week.

For encores the pair played “Ave Maria” and “The Swan” separated by a short virtuosic piece that I did not recognize. (When I find out what it was, I will edit this portion of my post.)

Ma and Stott
Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott.

One striking observation was that nobody ever clapped between movements. Not once. Ma –- the consummate performer -- controls his audience from the stage. When a movement is just ending, he leans quite strongly toward Stott and appears to be looking to her for the next move. And she then begins the next movement immediately and he relaxes his stance again. The audience, even the children, have thereby been taught the signal. At the end of the piece, well, they made that pretty obvious too: Hands in the air and broad smiles.

I can’t leave this post without commenting on how utterly jarring and shocking and horrifying it is to come away from a display of the world’s most beautiful musical artistry, only to return home, turn on the news, and learn of yet another gut-wrenching tragedy, just a few hours before, in which two dozen (and counting) human beings, including children, were murdered in the space of a few minutes by a gun-wielding lunatic -- this particular time, just outside San Antonio, Texas.

Must it be so?


November 6, 2017 at 03:07 AM · Enjoyed reading this! And it's a personal pleasure to hear no one clapped between movements, especially considering often the people who will purchase a ticket to hear Yo Yo Ma are often people who don't otherwise attend classical music performances. (Case in point: my teen son!)

I'm with you on the sorrow and horror of comparing such a lovely experience with the devastating reality of the latest gun-spree massacre. They are so at shocking odds with each other, and yet, both seem occupy a place in this current culture. I don't want it to be so. What human being WOULD want it to be so? But there you have it: our times. The silver lining is that nothing can make the arts go away. In fact, I think the arts become richer, and more crucial, as the violence occurs.

So, thank you for sharing your beautiful words about the music. They are a balm that soothe the rest of the news today.

November 7, 2017 at 07:33 PM · Speaking of violence and music, Leonard Bernstein said, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

November 7, 2017 at 07:35 PM · Speaking of music and violence, Leonard Bernstein said, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

November 9, 2017 at 03:55 AM · Beautiful, beautiful quote.

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