Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Friday, September 28, 2007

Performing the Opening of the Season: Yo Yo Ma and the Hartford Symphony

by Edmond Chibeau

Yo Yo Ma come to the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford Connecticut Thursday 20 September 2007 to perform the opening of the 64th season of the Hartford Symphony the night after playing the same music at Lincoln Center in NY that was also broadcast on PBS-TV. The performance is not only of the music but of the event. This was something understood by all concerned.

The first half of the evening was Smetana’s overture to The Bartered Bride, Massenet’s ballet music from Le Cid, Villa-Lobos’Bachianas Brasilerias No.5 for Soprano and Eight Cellos, and the William Tell Overture. The second half of the evening was Ma and Dvorak’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor. The Conductor Edward Cumming understands, not only the music, but the community the music is living in, and the timbre of the particular night we are sharing.

Yo Yo Ma understands tone; he helped set an appropriate tone for the evening and for the season as well as for Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. In the early Allegro movement Ma seemed to be chafing at the bit, wanting the orchestra to move along faster, but by the later movements they had found each other’s pace and played as if they had been together for years. Sometimes a concerto with an out of town guest can turn into two simultaneous concerts; one by the soloist and one by the orchestra. Ma is an attentive collaborator. He played with his orchestra and helped them to play with him. It was a true syn-phonic experience. This was in fact Ma’s 4th appearance with the Hartford Symphony, the first being in 1975 when he was still a student at Harvard.

The twenty-eight hundred people in the sold out theatre were attentive and enthusiastic. At the end of the allegro first movement of the Dvorak they applauded madly and Ma, after a brief pause, broke into a big smile and applauded right along with the audience.
The Hartford audience is nothing if not enthusiastic.

Earlier in the evening, before Ma took the stage, the audience applauded between the first and second movements of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras. Elona Ceno who sang the Soprano part in the Villa-Lobos was beautiful, powerful and sensitive to both the music and to her fellow musicians on cello.

Ma is attentive, generous and gracious; he turned to applaud the orchestra in general and the cello section in particular, on several occasions. The theme of congratulations, appreciation and recognition of one another’s achievements was the spine of the evening-as-performance.

It was a great night for cellos.

After the performance a father and daughter were getting into their car in the parking lot when one of the cellists with the orchestra walked by carrying her instrument. The father called out to congratulate the cellist on her performance, whereupon she veered across the street, and practically shouted, “Wasn’t it great?!” Her feet were barely touching the ground, and she was absolutely intoxicated by the music that she had been an integral part of. She asked the grade school girl who the father was accompanying if she played an instrument. Upon being told that the girl played the cello the musician let out a roaring whoop and shouted “Cello Yeah!!”

It was that kind of a night. Everyone was stoned on the sound and on the spiritual communion that suffused the evening; and of which the cello was the objective correlative. The Villa-Lobos Bachiana described the evening and set the tone. Apollo and Bacchus were well tempered and in perfect harmony.