Monday, October 29, 2012

Yo-Yo Ma in Mobile

Curtis and I had the unique opportunity to see Yo-Yo Ma perform with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra ("MSO") last Wednesday.  The MSO is not very old, but was fantastic.  It performed the first half without Ma, first playing a Verdi overture which was impressive, followed by the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.  I wasn't crazy about how it sounded, but it certainly sounded technically difficult and the MSO did a great job of it.

Then after the intermission Yo-Yo Ma came out, looked so pleased to be performing, and first did the Schumann Cello Concerto in a minor, opus 129 with the MSO, and to be honest, he clearly had it memorized and while he was enjoying himself, it sounded like something he's performed often (not unlike the Bach that he plays in The West Wing, which he did not play for us that night but had performed the night before in Mobile).

Then, I think we had the real treat, because, in honor of John Williams birthday, he performed an Elegy that Williams wrote for Cello and Orchestra, which was BEAUTIFUL.  Seriously, I was blown away.  It also has a unique history:


Elegy for Cello and Orchestra

Composed: 1997-2001
Orchestration: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet , 2 bassoons, 2 horns, harp, strings, and solo cello
A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine, a brilliant young violinist, lost her two young children in tragic circumstances. For the memorial service for little Alexandra and Daniel, a group of composer colleagues and I each contributed a small piece to mark this occasion, which was not only heart-rending, but also one that was suffused with a great deal of love.
A short time before this event, Yo-Yo Ma appeared as soloist on my soundtrack recording of Seven Years in Tibet. The score included a short melodic fragment which I thought might be expanded, so I shaped it into the form of the present Elegy, always with the cello in mind. The original version of the piece was for piano and cello and was beautifully performed at the memorial service by John Walz, an outstanding Los Angeles cellist. When the opportunity to record a CD with Yo-Yo Ma emerged, I decided to orchestrate the Elegy and Yo-Yo kindly agreed to record it.
— John Williams

After that, it was the end of the MSO program, and Ma then proceeded to delight the audience with 3 encores of solo music.  Even Curtis, who has very little musical background, enjoyed his performance and was impressed with his ability.

I was concerned going into the concert that I would be overly emotional - I had a hard time getting through the beautiful music at my Grandpa's service since he loved music so much.  But I was prepared and did well, and had a wonderful time listening to the beautiful music.

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