New Classical Tracks

Yo-Yo Ma reflects on the emotions of the pandemic

Yo-Yo Ma performs for everyone who has endured the pandemic.Jason Bell

New Classical Tracks: Yo-Yo Ma (extended)


January 06, 2021
New Classical Tracks: Yo-Yo Ma
by MPR

Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott — Songs of Comfort and Hope (Sony)

"We hope that for the many different kinds of people with different tastes and whatever that some of the music will just reach inside and just give a gentle caress."

It's a simple intention, and one that is really necessary right now, according to cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He and pianist Kathryn Stott recently released a recording, Songs of Comfort and Hope.

"In the middle of the summer, I was talking to my really longtime colleague and friend Kathy Stott and I said, 'Well, you know, can we do something that's more than just zooming? Can you pick songs that are meaningful to various people around the world?'

"When we need comfort, you know, we look for the touch points in our life, maybe it's baking, the smell of that pie is something you remember from your grandmother. The memories flood back and we look for things like that in the music."

Is there a song that when you think of its recording you want to tell somebody about it?

"You know, 'Over the Rainbow.' When I associate the music with … 'Birds fly over the rainbow, why, oh, why can't I,' those words with that music, it's like it's a puddle."

In this particular arrangement, tell me about how you've used pauses so effectively.

"Oh. Well, it's the reach, isn't it? You're reaching for something that's kind of almost unreachable, and it's the hope, it's the yearning, it's losing. It's hopefully finding again.

"It's all of those complex emotions that are almost there, like the contradictions of the emotion are built into the emotion. So the hope is the fear of loss, and the yearning is the knowing it's not reachable. It's both at the same time.

"So we wanted to bookend the storm of the pandemic and really dedicate this music to all the people that have had to go through, you know, the strenuous life, the strenuous times and the stresses and the losses and to just to acknowledge them and maybe say thank you."

Tell me about "Solveig's Song."

"Isn't that so gorgeous? I love this song so much. I think the words are about 'I'm going to wait for you.' It's the distance. It's the separation. It is the reaching out. It's very spiritual."


Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott — Songs of Comfort and Hope(Amazon)
Yo-Yo Ma (official site)
Kathryn Stott (official site)