Bernstein celebration; Yo-Yo Ma at Albert Hall

Yo-Yo Ma
London Times

Leonard Bernstein’s belated Proms debut conducting Mahler Five was one of the most electrifying evenings the Albert Hall can ever have know. So it’s quite a compliment to say that John Wilson’s Bernstein celebration on Saturday — marking.

About 6,000 people turned up for this glorious romp, and barely an hour later the hall was as full for what, musically, was the polar opposite: Yo­Yo Ma alone in semi­ darkness, playing all six cello suites by Bach (or, if you believe fanciful modern speculation, by Mrs Bach). Astonishing is too pale a word. He performed 150 minutes of intense music almost without a break, entirely from memory, and in a manner that vividly brought the notes to life without exaggeration or pedantry, but with a grace, suppleness, delicacy and lyricism that transfixed this vast crowd. Don’t mistake Ma’s light touch for superficiality. Each suite was characterised differently, and in the penultimate C minor he seemed to open a window on a profound, cosmic darkness.

Eclipsed, but not forgotten, the London Philharmonic’s Prom under Vladimir Jurowski on Friday was notable for a rivetingly lean and bleak account of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, and for Mitsuko Uchida’s elegant championing of Schoenberg’s neglected Piano Concerto — both works imbued with 1940s anguish. And in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s Prom under Thomas Sondegard I was blown away, almost literally, by the rude blasts and dancing vitality of Pan, a new 20­ minute work for organ (the excellent David Goode) and orchestra by B Tommy Andersson. 

Read the rest of the review here