the Chicago Symphony, no less.
How dare he! is the reaction of some, including one much-admired-by-me member of the CSO who is a frequent poster on the Internet Cello Society Cello Chat forum. He felt it was an insult to the CSO that Yo-Yo didn’t play his Strad or Montagnana.
Another member of the CSO posted that Yo-Yo had explained that traveling with one of those great instruments was a constant emotional strain. It sounded like Yo-Yo ends up feeling more like a bodyguard than a musician. And these days, I’ll add, sometimes even with a ticket you can’t get the cello on the plane and you either miss the flight or have to check the cello. That presents a real dilemma if you are traveling with a multi-million dollar irreplaceable antique instrument and have a concert that night.
And Yo-Yo reported also explained that he wants to make an actions-speak-louder-than-words statement about playing new instruments. One of the things I’ve always loved about Yo-Yo is his support and encouragement of other artists. If he can help dispel this nonsense idea that you have to have a “great” instrument to be a great artist, more power to him.
I love great cellos, especially when they are played in small, resonant spaces in which one can relish the nuances and depths and complexities of timber. But when it comes to making music, the music made is what is important, not the instrument. I’m much, much, much more interested in what someone does with an instrument than what the instrument is.
Now some of my ICS friends feel that if you pay a lot of money to hear someone like Yo-Yo, who is being paid $80,000, you should also get to hear a multi-million dollar famous cello. And that applies even if he’s only getting $50,000!
But my point of view is different. When I heard Lynn Harrell with the Boston Symphony in the summer of 2005, I wished he was playing a Luis and Clark carbon-fiber cello; I think we would have heard him better than on his Montagnana. Be that as it may, I’m glad Yo-Yo is doing some big concerts on a modern cello.