One of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s favorite places to perform is at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and much of that is because of where it’s located. Ma plays Aug. 9 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which opens its season on Wednesday, Aug. 2.
“Saratoga is much an historic place with its buildings that hark back to a different era,” Ma said. “It’s wondrous with Yaddo, the races. . . the town is bustling. But the star attraction is the Philadelphia Orchestra. Few orchestras have as much spirit and cohesion no matter what. They always come together. And I’ve grown up with so many of its members. We’re always great together.”
Although Ma doesn’t get to spend too much time locally because of his other performance commitments, after his one morning rehearsal on the day of his Philly concert, he does take time to go for a walk in the park or eat at a local restaurant. He especially likes to visit Yaddo, which he said was “pretty great.”
Most fans know that when Ma comes to SPAC he’ll play masterworks like the scheduled Dvorak Cello Concerto rather than a new piece, many of which he’s commissioned.
“The orchestra’s schedule and who’s conducting determine what I play,” he said.
New pieces require more rehearsal time, he said, although Marin Alsop, who is conducting, often conducts new works. But choosing the Dvorak was timely because Alsop’s Thursday Aug. 10 concert features the music of George Gershwin with the Marcus Roberts Trio.
“Dvorak’s students taught Gershwin, Ellington and Copland,” Ma said. “So he was the grandfather of three great American composers…
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