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As you walked down Massachusetts Avenue and saw the lines waiting to get into Symphony Hall, you could almost know, without additional evidence, that Yo-Yo Ma was playing. Few other instrumentalists can fill a hall of this size, and almost none can equal Ma’s ability not only to draw a large audience but to draw them, magnetically, into his variegated world.
Friday’s concert—his eighteenth in the Celebrity Series of Boston but his first since 2010—was a kind of world tour, for which he was joined by his frequent accompanist Kathryn Stott. It started in Russia, via Italy: Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne,” based on the composer’s ballet score “Pulcinella” (itself based on music thought to have been written by the 18th-century composer Pergolesi). It was not a promising beginning: Stott played so loudly that Ma, whose sound can easily fill this hall, was at times inaudible. Like a good 18th-century audience, those at Symphony Hall burst into applause after the tarantella, though there was still music to come.