By: Carrie Garrison | For The Duquesne Duke
Last Friday, Heinz Hall’s 2,661 seat concert hall was ﬁlled to capacity with people anxious to see the Grammy Award-winning cellist, Yo-Yo Ma.
Friday marked the opening of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s ﬁrst concert of the season and featured an exclusive gala with Hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and fairytale themed attire. The grand lobby featured hanging green garland and green candlelight. The stage even ﬁt the fairy tale with an enchanting woodland forest theme: ivy was hung from the ceiling and greenery was surrounding the musicians.
The symphony played Antonín Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture,” “Opus 92,” Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Dream Pantomine” from Hansel and Gretel, Sergeí Prokoﬁev’s Selections from the “Suite No. 1” from Cinderella, “Opus 107” and Tchaikovsky’s “Opus 66” from The Sleeping Beauty Suite.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performed brilliantly, as they always do. Their ﬂawless intonation, perfect ensemble and great conductor, Manfred Honeck, provided a wonderful opening to the season and a great ﬁrst half of the concert.
After the orchestra’s portion, Ma was welcomed onto the stage.
He came out with the grace and elegance of any great musician. His silver cumberbun and bow-tie sparkled in the lights of the Heinz Hall stage. His smile undoubtedly lit up the room and he gave the orchestra’s director, Manfred Honeck, a big hug before he began playing.
Ma played Tchaikovsky’s “Andante Cantabile” (from the String Quartet No 1 in D Major, Opus 11) and Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello” and “Orchestra, Opus 33.”
He began the Andante Cantabile by looking up at the heavens and every note he pulled from his cello was crystal-clear. His ability to communicate with the orchestra while he played was unbelievable. It sounded as if he had been working with the Pittsburgh Symphony for years. His full command of the tempo and the orchestra was awe-inspiring and his perfect romantic style, with long gorgeous phrases and pure elegance, was positively captivating.
The second piece Ma played with the orchestra, also by Tchaikovsky, was just as beautiful as the ﬁrst. Ma’s bowing articulation and perfect intonation ﬁlled the hall. His rich depth of sound was so remarkable. His ability to play so effortlessly was amazing. It was almost as if the cello were an extension of his body. There were moments of pure joy in this piece where Ma was nearly leaping off his podium with excitement. His passion for music was overwhelmingly obvious and brough excitement and exuberance to the audience with excitement and exuberance.
At the end of Ma’s breathtaking performance, he graciously played an encore, playing Franz Schubert’s “Litanie auf das Fest Aller Sellen, D. 343” with the orchestra. This truly put a ribbon around a perfect evening with Ma and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
The whole night really felt like an enchanted evening. Many guests were dressed in ﬂoor-length ball gowns and some couples were dressed as Disney Princesses. Seeing Yo-Yo Ma perform on the Heinz Hall stage was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that perfectly opened the new season of the Pittsburgh Symphony.