Yo Yo Ma at Symphony Hall Jan. 6-12

Joins Early Music Specialist Ton Koopman

By: - Dec 16, 2009

Yo Yo Ma
       Dutch early music specialist Ton Koopman leads a program of 18th- and 19th-century works by Haydn, C.P.E. Bach, and Schubert January 6-12. In addition to conducting the BSO from the podium, Mr. Koopman leads the orchestra from the harpsichord in a performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 98, which features harpsichord obbligato. One of Mr. Koopman's close collaborators, Yo-Yo Ma, joins him and the orchestra as the soloist in Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1. The program also includes the Symphony in G of C.P.E. Bach, one of J.S. Bach's most accomplished sons, and concludes with Schubert's Symphony in B minor, Unfinished.

       By the time Haydn made his first trip to London in 1791, the composer's music had already been widely played and he was warmly welcomed by the British public. During that first 18-month visit and a second two years later, Haydn composed twelve symphonic masterpieces collectively referred to as the "London" Symphonies. The Symphony No. 98, composed in 1792, was the last of six works written during his initial sojourn there, and it features a prominent part for solo harpsichord.

            Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 in C was completely lost for centuries, its existence documented only through a two-measure entry of its principal theme in Haydn's personal thematic catalogue of his works. When an old copy of the work (most likely written around 1765) was discovered in Prague in 1961, it was one of the most significant and exciting rediscoveries of Haydn research in the twentieth century.

          The second surviving son of J.S. Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) was far more famous during his lifetime than his father had been. For generations, he was northern Germany's leading composer. He wrote surprisingly few symphonies, given the popularity of the genre during that time – just eight during his 30 years' service to Frederick the Great in Berlin, and then six more for strings only in 1773 for Baron Gottfried van Swieten. But in 1775, an unknown patron commissioned four symphonies, of which the Symphony in G is one,  written for the full orchestral complement of the day, including flutes, oboes, and horns. Bach obliged, and these carefully crafted works were published in 1780 as "Orchestra Symphonies in twelve obbligato parts," drawing attention to their rich scoring for seven winds, four string parts, and continuo.

       Though it is still ambiguous as to whether Schubert's Symphony in B minor was his seventh or eighth work in the genre, what is clear is that it was Unfinished, and the last of his eight symphonies to be performed. The score of the work's first two movements is dated October 30, 1822, six years before his death. Why Schubert abandoned these expressive, memorable movements is one of music history's great mysteries, prompting endless speculation. In fact, by the time Schubert died prematurely at the age of 31, he had already passed the manuscript on to a friend, who waited 35 years before allowing it to be presented before the public.

Born in Zwolle, Holland in 1944, Ton Koopman studied musicology as well as organ and harpsichord, winning the Prix d'Excellence for both instruments. Fascinated by authentic instruments and a performance style based on sound scholarship, he created his first Baroque orchestra in 1969, at the age of 25. In 1979, he founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra followed by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir in 1992. Over the course of a forty-five-year career, Mr. Koopman has appeared as conductor and soloist in the most important concert halls and festivals of the five continents. He is also much in demand as a guest conductor. In addition to his concerts with the BSO, the 2009-10 season features engagements with Berlin Philharmonic, Stockholm Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, and many others. Mr. Koopman's impressive activities as a soloist, accompanist and conductor have been recorded extensively, and he has received numerous awards. His massive, decade-long project to record all of J.S. Bach's cantatas garnered Grammy and Grammophon nominations as well as  Deutsche Schallplattenpreis "Echo Klassik," the BBC Award 2008, and the Prix Hector Berlioz. More recently, Mr. Koopman began a project to record all the works of Dietrich Buxtehude. He leads the class of harpsichord at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, is Professor at the University of Leiden and is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London.  He also is artistic director of the French Festival "Itinéraire Baroque." Starting in 2011, Mr. Koopman will be Artist-in-Residence at the Cleveland Orchestra for three consecutive years.

Born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris, cellist Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most internationally recognized and respected musicians in the world. He spent his formative years in New York, graduating from Harvard University in 1976. His multi-faceted career 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 new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, coming together with colleagues for chamber music or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, Mr. Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination.   He draws inspiration from a wide circle of collaborators, creating programs with artists ranging from Emanuel Ax and Daniel Barenboim to Bobby McFerrin and Mark Morris. He has premiered works by a diverse group of composers, including Elliott Carter, Richard Danielpour, Osvaldo Golijov, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Peter Lieberson, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun, and John Williams.  His wide-ranging discography of over 75 albums includes more than 15 Grammy Award winners. In 1998 Mr. Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic, and intellectual traditions along the ancient trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. By examining the flow of ideas throughout this vast area, the Project seeks to illuminate the heritages of the Silk Road countries and identify the voices that represent these traditions today. The Project's major activities have included the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which included more that 400 artists from 25 countries and drew more than 1.3 million visitors, concerts at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan, and the new Silk Road Connect, a multi-year, multidisciplinary educational initiative for middle school students in New York City public schools. Performance-based initiatives include professional workshops co-produced with the Tanglewood Music Center, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Carnegie Hall. In November 2009 Mr. Ma was appointed to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

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