The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday February 6th

Yo-Yo Ma packs house

Quartet plays classics, global selection

Event organizers of Wednesday's performance, "Yo-Yo Ma & Friends," in Memorial Hall admitted it was probably the internationally renowned cellist's name alone that sold out the concert early last fall. However, the more than 15-time Grammy-winning classical artist shared the spotlight equally with each member of the quartet, which included violinists Colin Jacobsen and Jonathan Gandelsman and violist Nicholas Cords. The recently formed quartet opened its six-city American tour Wednesday. The artists also debuted brand new instruments, each specifically created for the tour and completed just last week. "We're excited to take these instruments on the road for this occasion," Gandelsman said. "It's kind of like starting a new relationship with someone. I think the most amazing thing is that it's a completely new instrument - it's alive, it's very responsive and happy to be played." Parallels between these new instruments, which Cords said were a testament to the craft of instrument making's longevity, and the concert's repertoire were something performers said they hoped audience members could draw from the concert. Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh's "Oasis for String Quartet and Tape" featured recorded sounds of water dropping to create the image of an oasis in a vast desert. The quartet's sound during the piece echoed this idea and seemed to conjure a veritable musical mirage with high-pitched violin wails and precise, quick plucks. Durham resident Kevin Van Sant, who attended the concert, said the tape accompaniment was unusual and surprising. "I didn't expect a piece like this, it's very unusual, but I just like to hear (Ma) play so much," Van Sant said. "It's such a pleasure to hear him, I mean, how often do you get to see Yo-Yo Ma?" Emil Kang, UNC's executive director for the arts, said Ma seeks to make connections with people by fusing his music with global perspectives. "(Ma) uses his music as a vehicle for understanding," Kang said. "And the music they are playing is really about this idea of exploring mutual ground." And during Wednesday's performance, audience members were given the chance to make connections between well-known works of Franz Schubert and modern pieces by Georgian and Armenian composers. "I think this program can really open people's imaginations," Jacobsen said. "Both geographically and emotionally, it covers a wide range." And the concert brought in a record number of guests to Memorial Hall. Because of a 300-person waiting list for tickets, Kang said he decided to seat audience members on stage surrounding the quartet and in the orchestra pit, in addition to the venue's 1,434 regular seats. Jacobsen said having audience members on stage during a concert breaks a separation between audience and performer. Ma himself even openly conversed with nearby audience members during the quartet's multiple standing ovations. "What a beautiful hall," Ma said during the concert. "What a great university. We love being on campus." Contact the Arts Editor at


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