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Yo-Yo Ma performs Bach at the BBC Proms /

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This was a first. One cellist, six cello suites, no interval and an audience of 5,000. Yo-Yo Ma, beaming as only he can, reclined back in his chair and looked heavenwards: clearly, for this Bachian odyssey, he'd be travelling Club Class.

In fact, there was to be no gilding, no glamour and no grand-standing. Playing on what sounded like gut strings, his tone was tawny, delicate, flecked with frictive texture, as far as possible from the glossy vocalisation we associate with the instrument. For all Ma's charisma, this was an extraordinary exercise in self-effacement.

After hearing close-miked recordings or performances in resonant churches, his famous G major Prelude sounded disconcertingly naked in the Royal Albert Hall, at once vast and claustrophobic in its replete state. Ma's strategy was to pull the listeners inwards with absolute clarity of articulation - even if it meant tempos were slower - dancing vitality and variety of phrasing, and by releasing rather than forcing the sound. His command of Bach's language is complete: each dance was delivered in a single, miraculous train of thought; each suite beautifully shaped, the six dramatised into a whole.  READ THE FULL REVIEW