ShareThis Page

Yo-Yo Ma, PSO prove world-class reputations are deserved

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 11:30 p.m.

Many dreams came true at Heinz Hall on Friday night when the Pittsburgh Symphony presented its annual gala, “Once Upon a Time.”

The concert portion of the event was the only time this season one could hear cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Pittsburgh. And hearing Manfred Honeck and the musicians perform was proof that the orchestra's world-class reputation is no fairy tale.

In addition, the gala is the symphony's biggest fundraising event of the season, which this year grossed more than $1 million, a new record, according to board chairman Dick Simmons.

Fall might be the busiest time of the year for the famous cellist, who played with the New York Philharmonic on Wednesday night and will play with the Los Angeles Philharmoninc on Monday night.

Ma's immense popularity is based on his wonderful musicianship and communicative powers, but he's also an ideal example of a modern classical music star. He's an elite performer but no elitist. He's a commanding soloist who loves collaboration in the ways he makes music.

Perhaps nothing better demonstrated this facet of his personality than his encore. Ma said his friend and fellow cellist Hampton Mallory would help him while he played music he hadn't known. He then joined the cello section for a Schubert sacred song arranged for orchestra by Honeck in which the cello section take the singer's part and which was used as an encore on the recently completed European tour.

The concert began in high spirits with a vigorous performance of Antonin Dvorak's Carnival Overture. Honeck took a very fast tempo to begin, but eased back to allow the contrasting lyrical idea to soar with warmth.

The Prayer and Dream Pantomime from the opera “Hansel and Gretel,” by contrast, was quite slow and soft in texture.

Honeck and the orchestra fared better in three movements from Sergei Prokofiev's ballet “Cinderella,” which had idiomatic edge, than in two movements from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's “The Sleeping Beauty,” which were over-interpreted.

Ma's two selections which closed the printed program were by Tchaikovsky, too. The Andante cantable, an arrangement of the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 1, began with natural beauty and became increasingly personal until time seemed to stop.

Contrasts were heightened in Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations, in both dynamics and tempo. The bravura final variation brought the audience to its feet.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.