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Yo-Yo Ma & Emanuel Ax - The Reunion

By François Hudry |

Fourty years after their first complete recording of the same works, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax reunite as two venerable white-haired gentlemen.

Hope Amid Tears is the title of their new album recorded at Seiji Ozawa Hall in Lenox, Massachusetts. It's true that hope was needed in August 2020 when the Covid-19 epidemic was ravaging the world and especially the United States, and what better way to have hope than with Beethoven's humanistic message...

The five Sonatas for Cello and Keyboard (the first two for keyboard with cello accompaniment) belong to the three eras, or styles, traditionally used to describe Beethoven's evolution. The first two are still rooted in the 18th century and represent the first important works of the genre in the classical period. Whilst with Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69, the horizon of the cello expands. In this particular Sonata, the instrument emancipates itself by speaking truly in the first person, beginning the discourse alone before being joined by the piano, in a style similar to the great contemporary works such as the Fifth Symphony, the "Pastoral" Symphony, the Coriolan Overture and the "Razumovsky" Quartets. The musical discourse is syncopated, the dialogue constant as if the instruments were in conversation, in which each one is carried away and passionate in turn.

The last two Sonatas, Op. 102, date from a difficult period for the composer, who was ill and increasingly deaf. These were not very productive years when his creative energy seemed to wane. The works fugal writing, more learned and more difficult to access, has long hindered their understanding. The faithful friendship and long musical companionship of Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax seem to have guided this new recording in which they speak the same language, with the same intentions and the same phrasing, adding to the interpretation all of their joint experience and maturity.


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