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. <NO1>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.
<NO>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.
He appeared relaxed but engaged, beads of sweat forming on his brow through a flurry of double-stops, harmonics and pizzicato in the Stravinsky work.
Still youthful in appearance and at the top of his game in terms of technique and musicality, the 57-year-old musician has changed little from his performances in Santa Rosa in 1995 and 1998 when he played concerts in support of the Santa Rosa Symphony.
<NO1>Out of the seven works on the program, only the Stravinsky and Messiaen pieces were originally composed for the cello. All of the rest were either adapted or arranged for <NO>Ma and Stott<NO1>, who<NO> performed the same program Thursday night at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley and will repeat it again at Stanford's new Bing Hall on Sunday.