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About this Piece

Music is about connection and exploration, and Kathy Stott has been my constant partner in both for many decades, sustaining me as an artist and as a human being. Among Kathy’s many gifts is her ability to craft a concert program that brings performers and audience on a shared journey, creating the unbroken circle of content, communication, and reception that can turn the concert hall into a communal space, at once sacred and secular.

It is a special honor to share this space with you tonight—this is a program of particular significance: Kathy will retire from her extraordinary career as a performer at the end of this year, and she designed this program knowing it would likely be the last we would perform together.

I hope you will listen to tonight’s concert with this in mind, hearing in its whole a celebration of the time we have spent together, and in each piece a glimpse of the explorations we have shared.

Kathy and I believe that music lives through relationships: among performers, between students and teachers, across generations. The opening suite is testament to this, to the fact that we musicians stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and that we can only hope that ours will sustain those who come after.

My path and Kathy’s intersect through one teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Nadia taught Kathy in her early years at the Menuhin School, south of London, and Nadia’s student, Luise Vosgerchian, was my professor in college. Professor Vosgerchian liberated me from being a neurotic instrumentalist tethered to perfection and taught me how to approach music with perspective, with humanity. It feels right that Nadia Boulanger’s Cantique—a song of praise—arrives two thirds of the way through the suite, at its golden mean. Cantique anchors an opening that contains our shared musical world, from Dvořák’s own homage to the transmission of music across the generations to the creation of Sergio Assad, one of the many friends Kathy and I met in our immersion in the music of Brazil. It is a microcosm fittingly framed by the composer who has been with Kathy since the very beginning, Gabriel Fauré, friend and mentor to Nadia Boulanger!

The three pieces that follow the opening suite contain worlds of meaning for us. In the Shostakovich, we hear the pursuit of truth, against all odds; in Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, simplicity and complexity coexist to create a portrait of the universe; and in César Franck’s sonata, composed as a wedding gift for the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, we are given the immortal gift of love. All three are, for us, reminders of our humanity, as needed today as ever. When I reflect on my decades of collaboration with Kathy, I realize that they have been so sustaining in part because she is fiercely grounded, yet always open to receiving the world as it is. This program reflects this, her clarity, her curiosity, and her boundless love of music.

I want to leave you with the opening lyrics of Nadia Boulanger’s Cantique. They are words that you won’t hear in our performance, lines from a poem by the Belgian poet Maurice Maeterlinck:

À toute âme qui pleure,
À tout peché qui passe,
J’ouvre au sein des étoiles
Mes mains pleines de grâces.

(To every crying soul,
to each passing sin,
I open to the bosom of the stars
my hands full of grace.)

I write this note with the deepest affection and greatest admiration, trying to reconcile a spirit of huge celebration with real sadness and, above all, gratitude.

―Yo-Yo Ma