This morning the BSO held an open rehearsal of their Dvorak, Bartok program, featuring world famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. In concert setting, musicians and soloists are serious and professional; however, at this early morning rehearsal you could see the musicians, and even the legendary Yo-Yo Ma, in casual dress, some in jeans, or wearing rain-boots, one even in a cap, engaging each other, basically, just being regular people.
Yo-Yo Ma took the stage 10 minutes before the performance began and just mingled with the orchestra; it was clear that he was no divo and that he did not put himself, in any way, above the orchestra musicians (except on the literal podium from which he played). Throughout the rehearsal of Dvorak’s b Minor Cello Concert Yo-Yo Ma engaged his fellow orchestra members and conductor Juanjo Mena, sometimes physically turning his body to make eye contact with the first chair violist, or whoever he was sharing that line with. Skeptics in the audience were uncertain if he would give his all to the rehearsal performance, but their fears were soon assuaged as Yo-Yo Ma made sure to play every note of the magnificent concerto with care and passion.
Yo-Yo Ma had a warm, soothing tone. Known for his inspired playing, it was clear rehearsal was no exception. As the moods of the music changed, one could see the change as well as hear it. Eyes closed with a serene smile across his lips, the notes warbled with full, lavish vibrato from Yo-Yo Ma’s instrument; then, his eyebrows would furrow, the smile disappeared, and the music would take a fiery turn, heavy and dark. In some of his more aggressive playing, Ma’s sound came through a little harshly, but no less impassioned. There was never a sad, happy or angry moment throughout the concerto; rather, melancholic, ardent, and peaceful. Ma colored each note of this well known piece with complex emotion, leaving his legendary mark on it. By the end of his performance it was certain Yo-Yo Ma was not one to give the music anything less than his best, even in a rehearsal, out of respect for his audience and respect for one of Dvorak’s masterpieces.
The BSO followed up the concerto with a 50 minute ballet scenario, Bela Bartok’s The Wooden Prince. The Wooden Prince recounts the story of a Prince who falls in love with a Princess in a neighboring castle. A fairy thwarts all of the Prince’s attempts to reach the Princess by putting obstacles, such as the defiant trees and the surging waves, in the Prince’s path. In an attempt to win her over, he waves a wooden puppet of himself in the air, which the Fairy brings to life. The Princess falls in love with the puppet, to the Prince’s dismay, but soon after the Fairy changes her mind and takes the princes side. The puppet falls lifeless and the Princess, now seeking the attention of the Prince, is blocked by all the same obstacles. Finally, the two are united and the piece ends harmoniously.
In this scenario, Bartok has mastered the art of imagery through music. The instrumentation, dynamics, and rhythmic styles all work together perfectly to bring vivid images of the forest, the waves, and the wooden prince of the story to life. Three saxophones were used in the primary motif creating a tranquil tone over which with the strings, harps, and woodwinds play altered scales to create a tumultuous effect, like churning waves. Similarly the col legno technique employed by the strings brings the dancing puppet to life with rhythmic tapping of the wood of the bow on the string.
Although only a rehearsal, it was easy to see how The Wooden Prince was going to shape up for their evening performance. The two majestic pieces complement each other beautiful and the rehearsal setting gave the audience meaningful insight into the dynamic of the orchestra itself, how they communicate with each other while performing and engage each other. This program will be performed Oct. 14th, 15th, and 18th at Symphony Hall.