Last night we were privileged to be able to attend Yo-Yo Ma’s concert with the Kansas City Symphony. He played Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor and it was sublime. I am fortunate enough to have seen Yo-Yo Ma perform once before; last night’s performance was Sibylle’s first chance to see him live.
What struck me from the moment he walked on stage was his sheer joy at doing this. He was having fun and he wanted everyone else there – the other players, the audience – to have fun as well. Our seats were fantastically close (6 rows from the stage) but over at the right side of the concert hall. This meant that the conductor was between us and Mr. Ma during the concerto performance. While it was a bit disappointing to have my view of his playing impeded I was able to hear every note as the Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a superb venue.
There was a sustained round of applause and a couple of rounds of returning to the stage. Every time Mr. Ma returned to the stage he greeted different orchestra members and directed his own applause toward them. As this is the inaugural season for the center there were several donor’s, the architects, and the hall’s namesake in attendance. Mr. Ma also directed his applause to them. The third time he returned to the stage he was by himself, and a moment later the conductor stepped out on stage with the cello and bow. Yo-Yo Ma took them and proceeded to center stage.
He spoke briefly about the creating beauty using beautiful instruments and in a beautiful hall. He called the place where we were a “cultural cathedral on the hill”. He then said he wanted to dedicate the Sarabande from the D major Bach Cello Suite to this cultural cathedral on the hill. With an absolutely hushed hall he played the most achingly beautiful rendition of that movement I have ever heard. There were tears running down my cheeks by the time he was finished.
The concert was everything I had hoped for and better than I imagined. His musical gift transcends mere technical skill or ability. It transports him and his audience into the music, and for a few brief moments all that matters, all that exists, all that is, is beauty.