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Yo-Yo Ma | Emanuel Ax@Carnegie Hall / New York Times review

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To repeat or not to repeat? That was the unusual question the cellist Yo-Yo Ma asked the capacity crowd at Carnegie Hall on Friday evening before a performance of Beethoven's Sonata in A (Op. 69) with the pianist Emanuel Ax. The duo heeded the resounding chorus of yeses (punctuated by a smattering of vociferous noes) and observed the repeat in the first movement.

Their interpretation of the work proved the highlight of a memorable concert that featured all five of Beethoven's sonatas for cello and piano, which they have recorded together. Their well-honed collaboration here sounded immaculate and spontaneous, Mr. Ma's silken tone and Mr. Ax's limpid touch meshing to elegant effect.

The five sonatas were composed over two decades. The duo aptly traced a stylistic arc from the two genteel Op. 5 Sonatas (written in 1796) through the introspective, enigmatic Cello Sonata in D (Op. 102, No. 2).

The cello melody of the Adagio of the Sonata in G minor (Op. 5, No 2) unfolded with gossamer intimacy; Mr. Ax rendered the gently syncopated part with a poetic delicacy. Their reserved approach to the Op. 5 sonatas blossomed into a full-blooded sound in the heroic A major sonata, with Mr. Ax's sparkling runs impressive in the concluding Allegro Vivace.

"We ran out of Beethoven," Mr. Ma said after an intense performance of the Cello Sonata in D (Op. 102, No. 2). So for the encore, they offered an arrangement for cello of the Adagio from Brahms's Violin Sonata in D minor. VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

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