Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax have both been playing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major for over forty years. But it took a global pandemic for the two of them to fully understand it. “This is such open, hopeful music,” Ax said. But when Beethoven dedicated the original piece to a friend, he signed the manuscript, “amid tears and sorrow.” Beethoven, Ma and Ax reflected, finished the sonata during a tumultuous period in which Napoleon was at war with Austria and the composer was losing his hearing. “I thought this was a good piece for this moment,” Ma told The New Yorker’s music critic Alex Ross. “Because people are suffering, and we do think that music can give comfort.” The musicians spoke to Ross and performed from an empty concert hall as part of the New Yorker Festival.
The segment originally aired November 13, 2020.