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Yo-Yo Ma rocks the Green Center

  • Yo-Yo Ma performed to a sold-out crowd Saturday at the Green Music Center's Weill Hall on the campus of Sonoma State University. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his long-time collaborator, pianist Kathryn Stott, ignited the crowd and moved many to tears Saturday night at the Green Music Center's Weill Hall during the most anticipated concert of Sonoma State University's initial music series.

This was Ma's first public appearance at Weill Hall, the centerpiece of the $120 million Green Music Center, which opened on the Sonoma State University campus in September after 15 years of prolonged fund-raising and construction. However, the world-famous cellist played an impromptu mini-concert in the hall with pianist/conductor Jeffrey Kahane in September 2011 to celebrate Kahane's birthday.

The event began with a cocktail reception for 200 guests in Schroeder Hall, a recital hall still under construction next to the Green Music Center academic wing. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served, ice was trucked in for the patio and heat lamps warmed up the crowd during the fund-raiser to benefit the new Weill Hall Artists-in-Residence program.

Among those attending were Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the House of Representatives, Jeannie Schulz, SSU President Ruben Arminana, Santa Rosa councilman Ernesto Olivares and new California State University Chancellor Timothy White.

“This has become a community gathering spot,” said Dan Condron, vice president for University Affairs at SSU. “I think it's a source of pride beyond Sonoma State.”

The concert took the audience on a world trip, starting with Igor Stravinsky's “Suite Italienne,” then through three South American pieces, and back to Europe with works by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla and French composer Olivier Messiaen, ending with Brahms' searing Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108 for violin.

About 50 audience members were able to sit on stage with the performers. Ma had a music stand but barely glanced at it, preferring to close his eyes and throw his head back during the more passionate passages.

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