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MUSIC REVIEW : Yo-Yo Ma in Solo Recital at Wadsworth

March 19, 1994|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

In successful attempts to broaden the cello repertory, Yo-Yo Ma regularly raids the cupboards of other solo instruments. Returning under the auspices of UCLA's Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday night, the Paris-born musician did it again.

This time, he stole from violinists, three of the famous and familiar Caprices by Paganini (Nos. 9, 11 and 24), playing them with such effortless articulation that one heard the music, not the difficulties. Still, his sold-out audience in Wadsworth Theater in Westwood greeted the feat with noisy approbation. In doing so, they were not misguided.

There were other novelties on Ma's unaccompanied solo program, though its core became, through a last-minute reconstituting of the agenda, two Bach suites.

George Crumb's wondrous, still ear-opening, positively abrasive Sonata for Solo Cello (1955) began the program in a crush of projected emotion, making all its many points in a wide-ranging dynamic scheme--from ghostly pianissimos to the sturdiest of fortes --and holding the listener, as it were, by the collar.

Later, there was David Wilde's "The Cellist of Sarajevo" (1992), a poignant and wrenching eight-minute "Lament in Rondo Form," and a relic of the Bosnian war.

Amid these important but mundane musical expressions, Bach provided the comforts of timeless beauty and abstraction. The Suite No 1. in G offered aural rewards for the next, more spiritual, world, while the Suite No. 6 in D balanced joyful virtuosity with seraphic visions. Ma played both with the deepest concentration and in apparently direct communication with his rapt listeners. No wonder they flock to his every visit here.

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