There is no better way to pass the lazy summer hours of a bank holiday Monday than to listen to Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott perform live classical music at the BBC Proms.

© BBC / Michael ONeill and Lorenzo Cicconi Massi
© BBC / Michael ONeill and Lorenzo Cicconi Massi

Opening the performance at Caodgan Hall was the London première of Graham Fitkin’s L. Commissioned by Kathryn for Yo-Yo Ma’s 50th birthday six years ago, this was a great sneak peak for the unfolding of Fitkin’s brand-new cello concerto on Wednesday, also being performed by Yo-Yo Ma. (Tune into BBC Radio 3 if you couldn’t snag tickets!) Described by Fitkin as a ‘kitsch, brutal and sensual,’ L is defined by a series of crisp, repeated notes in the piano part, alongside long, lingering lines on the cello. Fast-paced throughout, in the middle of the piece, it felt like the musicians were finally able to take a breath; Yo-Yo plunged into a deep, sensual section defined by heavy, full lines while Stott played a series of drawn-out chords. But in less than a few deep breaths, there was a return to the earlier frenetic section, which recalled Reich’s minimalist influences in the midst of Fitkin’s stormy melodies. And just like a storm, L ended with a ferocious mix of sounds, involving a lot of pedal in the piano and dramatic strumming on the cello that rang loudly until the sounds slowly died out, enveloping Cadogan Hall in a heavy curtain of silence.

The next two pieces were a tribute to Yo-Yo Ma’s eclectic musical taste. Egberto Gismonti and Geraldo Carneiro’s Bodas de prata (Silver Wedding) and Quatro cantos (Four Corners) are both from Yo-Yo Ma’s CD Obrigado Brasil, a tribute to classical Portuguese music. Together, the pieces were sombre, delicate and intensely romantic. In Bodas de prata, it was clear that the piano and cello parts were written as two melodic lines in counterpoint to one another. Still, they were intimately married to each other and Yo-Yo and Kathryn perfectly captured the fragile, yet stormy nature of this romantic piece. The mood hardly changed with the performance of Quatro cantos; one could feel the intensity in Kathryn’s blustery piano parts and Yo-Yo’s heady cello lines. Although their fierce concentration was betrayed on both their faces, Quatro cantos was played effortlessly.

Last, but certainly not least, was Sergey Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19. Full of splendour and wit, this piece was a feast for both the eyes and ears. With hands flying wildly on both cello and piano, the audience sat transfixed from start to finish. Defined by fierce contrasting melodies, Yo-Yo and Kathryn transitioned seamlessly from wild, frenzied lines to long, drawn-out legato sections within seconds. Particularly in the second movement, Allegro scherzando, Kathryn’s continuous piano line rattled underneath broad strokes on the cello, creating a layer of colour unique to the Sonata. But within minutes, Yo-Yo and Kathyrn drew us right back into the fierce, playful nature of the piece with a return to the main melodic material of the piece. With bows and arms moving at a rapid pace, Yo-Yo and Kathryn performed the Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19 with the verve and panache required by the Russian composer, leaving audiences craving more.

With endless applause from the audience, Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott proved that a long-standing friendship is the perfect recipe for musical bliss.