Ma and Stott embrace adventure at Symphony Hall

11.19.15
Yo-Yo Ma
Boston Globe

At 60, with a resume probably longer than a standard roll of toilet paper, Yo­-Yo Ma may be the world's most famous living cellist. He could skate by for the rest of his career trotting out warhorse concertos and spun-sugar showpieces, but as a Celebrity Series concert at Symphony Hall on Tuesday showed, he's not going to. With pianist Kathryn Stott, a collaborator for more than three decades, Ma introduced some unfamiliar sounds, and imbued old chestnuts with new energy.
The concert included selections from "Songs From the Arc of Life," the duo's recent disc of miniatures both obscure and well-traveled. Faure's wispy "Apres le reve" was a heartfelt last-minute addition at the program's start, dedicated to the people of Paris after Friday's attacks. Debussy's "Beau soir" was poignant, evoking stillness in its subdued  piano arpeggios and meandering cello melody.
The "Ave Maria" with Gounod's melody over Bach's famous prelude and the "Ave Maria" by Schubert are oft-recorded, and often drip with sap; here, they were luminous. Stott handled  the piano with a consistently light touch, and Ma's cello channeled a child's innocent, unpretentious voice. Even audience members who don't frequent  classical concerts have probably encountered these Ave Marias, but this felt like hearing them for the first time again.
Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in D minor was elemental. Ma's tone was sinewy and satisfying in the restless first movement, each deliberately shaped phrase connecting to the next. The fiery second movement scherzo brought staccato sparks and leaping harmonics. In the Largo, vibrato and affect were laid on too thick at times, but the soaring final movement more than made up.
The evening culminated in three encores; before the second, Stott eagerly brandished a sheaf of sheet music, while Ma mimed yawning and going to sleep. No one bought his act for a second. Read the rest of the review here