By Stephanie Powell
“Do you like my outfit?” Yo-Yo Ma asked a sold-out crowd at Walt Disney Concert Hall as he walked onstage after intermission. He’s wearing perfectly ironed trousers, shined shoes . . . and a T-shirt. “I thought it was hot in here,” he said with a laugh, “and not because there are so many cellists in the audience.”
He’s taken to the mic to introduce the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, which he calls “a great festival.” Ma and longtime recital partner Kathryn Stott performed music from their latest album, The Arc of Life.
Ma gave an arresting performance—bouncing along with wild pizzicato passages and leaning back with ease during a delicate performance of Sibelius’ Was It a Dream?, Op. 37, No. 4. He turned the pages of his sheet music almost out of habit, his eyes closed or looking up at the ceiling or audience.
The evening’s program included the “Arc of Life” Suite from The Arc of Life album, Shostakovich’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 40, Il bell’Antonio (Tema III) by Giovanni Sollima, who was present in the audience and whom Ma didn’t hesitate to bring onstage after his performance of the work, and finally Franck’s Sonata in A major.
The ever-humble Ma made sure to give Stott her praise: “Kathryn introduced me to Giovanni [Sollima’s] music, and for that I’m forever grateful,” he said as he introduced the next piece. “And for years of collaborating and playing together—she really puts up with a lot,” he said with a laugh. “Plus, if you look at her sheet music, she has, like, 1,800 more notes than I do.”