Commentary by Jay Harvey
Sen. John McCain came over to shake his hand, then returned to his seat by Stephen Colbert’s desk, noting that another of the late-night TV host’s guests, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, had lifted the classiness of the show “by a factor of 5.”
Be that as it may, Ma, who will play a recital Nov. 18 at the Palladium, is never stuffy about his stature, which is as lofty as any classical musician’s active today. He used his cello bow to cut a birthday cake in honor of his birthday on the same Oct. 7 show, played a Gershwin piano prelude (transcribed for cello) with bandleader Jon Batiste, and accompanied ballet dancer Misty Copeland with a movement from a Bach suite. He can be collegial with just about anybody.
A more enduring collegiality exists between him and British pianist Kathryn Stott, with whom he will appear in Carmel. The program will be highlighted by a suite from the duo’s new CD, “Songs from the Arc of Life.” Framed by the Bach/Gounod and Schubert settings of “Ave Maria,” the suite also includes short pieces by Niels Gade, Claude Debussy, and Jan Sibelius.
Also on the program: Shostakovich’s Sonata in D minor, op. 40, Franck’s Sonata in A major (originally for violin) and “Il bell’ Antonio” by Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima.
Ma was last at the Palladium with the Silk Road Project, an ensemble of varying personnel that he founded 15 years in order to connect music of various kinds from east to west. Of Chinese parentage and born in Paris, the cellist has lived in the United States since childhood. After rising fast as a cello prodigy, he chose to go to Harvard for a liberal arts education in order to feed an intellectual curiosity that remains with him.
For more on the Nov. 18 performance and for tickets, visit thecenterpresents.org.