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Yo-Yo Ma Performs Sold-Out Concert with RPO

April 23, 2008

Renowned Cellist Performs Dvořák Concerto under Baton of Christopher Seaman

Rochester, NY – One of the most anticipated concerts of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra season is nearly here.  On Monday, May 5 at 8 p.m. at Eastman Theatre, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will be performing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto to a sold-out crowd with Music Director Christopher Seaman conducting.  Mr. Ma last appeared with the RPO during the 1999-2000 Season.  There will be no pre-concert chat.

The many-faceted career of Yo-Yo Ma is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. Whether performing a new concerto, revisiting a familiar work, performing chamber music or exploring non-Western musical forms, Mr. Ma strives to find stimulating imaginative connections.  Balancing his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world and his recital and chamber music activities, he draws inspiration from a wide circle of collaborators.  One of Mr. Ma’s goals is the exploration of music as a means of communication, and as a vehicle for the migrations of ideas, across a range of cultures throughout the world.  Expanding upon this interest, Mr. Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  Mr. Ma’s discography of over 75 albums (including more than 15 GRAMMY® Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests.

“It is always a privilege to welcome back to Rochester our good friend, Yo-Yo Ma, one of the greatest artists of our generation, who has done so much to bring music into people’s lives and to encourage young musicians,” notes Christopher Seaman.  “Yo-Yo will play one of his signature pieces, the glorious Dvořák Cello Concerto.”  Seaman goes on to describe how Dvořák’s music is “saturated with the flavor of traditional Czech song and dance,” with the “virtuoso ‘fireworks’ of the solo part perfectly balanced by the composer’s unmatched gift for melody.”  Composed during Dvořák’s three-year term as director of New York’s National Conservatory of Music, the piece was inspired by the composer’s homesickness, Victor Herbert’s cello concerto, and by the cellist of the Bohemian Quartet.  Dvořák’s apparently inexhaustible supply of gorgeous melodies is woven perfectly into an impressive symphonic masterpiece.

Like Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, pieces on the concert’s first half are equally “national” in their style.  The stirring Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin opens the concert, followed by the lesser-known but most attractive and brilliantly orchestrated Variations on a Hungarian Folksong, “Peacock Variations” by Zoltan Kodály. Commissioned by the Concertgeboew Orchestra of Amsterdam for its 50th anniversary, the piece was premiered in 1939, only to be banned by Hungarian authorities a year later.  Fly, Peacock Fly is an ancient Hungarian folk song whose text is a metaphorical call for freedom from tyranny.  Kodály’s choice at a time when political extremism was reaching a dangerous peak in Hungary was a bold and defiant move. 

Following “Peacock Variations” is Sibelius’ Finlandia, a piece equally full of the spirit of resistance.  Originally titled Finland Awakes, the work was composed as incidental music to a stage pageant in support of a free press during  Russia’s oppressive rule of Finland in 1899.  The grand finale of the work was Sibelius’ tone poem embodying the Finns’ resistance and their faith in their eventual return to democracy.  It is known and loved for both its musical value and as an internationally recognized anthem of freedom.

This concert is sponsored by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and The Elaine P. and Richard U. Wilson Foundation, with additional support from Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP and First Niagara.

Celebrating its 85th season in 2007-08, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester. 

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