Mudlark No. 41 (2010)

Yo-Yo Ma Comes to Town

Elegantly austere,
the stage, the scene awaits him,
a single property under the vast proscenium —
a bench in an oval of theatrical light.
He enters,
slight boy-man,
gracious, unassuming,
cello elevated in left hand, bow in right.
Takes the applause, smiling, bowing,
Prepares himself without ceremony.
The program is Bach,
three unaccompanied suites,
traditional dances, exaltingly construed.
Tonight he plays the 1712 Davidoff Strad,
although he owns also a 1733 Montagnana.
This is the real thing,
he announces with his first strike,
who was a prodigy in Paris and New York
from the age of four,
this ardor, this candor set free, he proclaims,
who has a wife Jill, children Nicholas and Emily,
and a degree from Harvard,
this fine suddenness of a running courante,
these ingenuities that seize the world,
these curvings, slantings, flourishings,
these symmetries that come out of the darkness
telling stories,
these privacies of the morning,
the afternoon, the evening,
these rumors of a counterlife,
of vanishing ironies,
ferocious choices,
secrets of memory,
this gallant minuet,
this contemplative allemande.
How is it they know these things,
he and Johann Sebastian
and the valorous fiddle?
These surges of entreaty,
these buried judgments,
nuances of old nuances,
these intimations of perfect possibility
that, however eloquent, may also be malign,
those motions of introspection
that follow me to my car,
into the night,
those trillings of the undermind,
those stately sarabandes.

Oliver Rice | Mudlark No. 41 (2010)
Contents | Afternoon of the Icon