MTT and Yo-Yo Ma with the LSO at the Barbican

Yo-Yo Ma

The LSO and Yo-Yo Ma’s performance was not unequivocally convincing, but there were some extraordinary moments in the music. The first movement lacked some of the desolateness that I would say belongs to the piece (though Tilson Thomas certainly got off to an exciting start, accidentally throwing his baton in the air a few minutes into the piece), but the second movement was energetic and contained some fabulous playing from the woodwinds. The third movement was at times stunning, and the entire concert hall was deadly silent when Ma played the cadenza (not even a cough!), so mesmerized were we all.

Ma’s playing was beautiful but it lacked some of the despair and aggression Rostropovich put into the piece. His projection was sometimes faltering, but the orchestra and Tilson Thomas never overpowered him. It was an effective partnership, and the performance made it clear why the piece is a cello symphony and not a concerto. Michael Tilson Thomas ensured the balance between soloist and orchestra remained throughout.

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