Author: Kelly Dean Hansen, Camera Classical Music Writer

DAILY CAMERA: Yo-Yo Ma gives effortless, deeply-felt solo concert at Macky

CU venue not likely soon to see another such performance

In almost 20 years of attending classical music concerts in Boulder, and after 14 years of writing about these concerts in various forms for the Camera, this writer has never experienced anything quite like the scene at Macky Auditorium on Wednesday night.

After it was announced almost a year ago that Yo-Yo Ma — often considered the world’s greatest cellist and easily one of the most recognizable names among active classical performers — would headline the 80th anniversary season of the University of Colorado’s Artist Series, it didn’t take long for Macky to sell out completely, even with elevated ticket prices.

Many high-profile artists have failed to sell out the 2000-seat auditorium, a venue whose size is unusual for a city of Boulder’s population. Something about Ma is different, and it’s not that easy to define. Yes, his artistry is matchless, and yes, he is a tireless ambassador for both music and humanity, but everybody in attendance experienced it simultaneously when he walked onto the stage.

Before that, entry to the building was carefully controlled, resulting in the virtually unprecedented spectacle of multiple long lines forming outside the main doors. Even at that moment, it was clear that this would be a concert like no other. Once inside, what the crowd saw was a bare stage with a chair in the center.

Ma was presenting a solo concert with no pianist or other collaborators. Even chamber music or solo piano programs are often a dicey proposition in that hall, which is more suited for huge orchestras or opera productions. A single cello would seem dwarfed by those surroundings — but this cello was to be played by Yo-Yo Ma.

So came the moment. With his brilliant signature smile, the 61-year-old cellist, whose career now spans around four decades, walked out with his instrument — and the cheers were of a level not often heard even in the most enthusiastic standing ovation after a typical concert.

After amiable, ingratiating gestures to the crowd, he sat and played. The word “effortless” is sometimes overused to describe performance styles, but with Ma it is an understatement. On a solo cello recital, it was a given that the bulk of the program would be devoted to J.S. Bach’s six suites, and indeed Ma played three of them.

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