I didn't figure on watching the entire funeral Mass for Sen. Edward Kennedy, but I'm glad I got drawn in, for, in addition to all the fine oratory (especially by Ted Kennedy, Jr.) , there was music-making of great eloquence by three of the finest artists in today's classical world. The senator, a hearty music lover, would have loved every note of it.
During the Offertory, Yo-Yo Ma played the Sarabande from Bach's Suite No. 6 for Unaccompanied Cello, a piece of elegant, comforting beauty, with a hint of sadness in the descending melodic motive that recurs. Intonation could not have been easy to maintain in the un-airconditioned church, but Ma came through, as always, with his deeply poetic phrasing.
The cellist returned at Communion to accompany Placido Domingo in the Cesar Franck hymn, "Panis Angelicus," a work of great warmth that was much loved in the days of pre-guitar Catholicism. It was intriguing to
hear just a tenor and a solo cello perform this music, and I found the result quite touching, a very personal performance. Domingo hit a rough note or two, but sang with considerable expressive power to the counterpoint of Ma's eloquent counterpoint. (Update: I've added video of the Franck.)
After Communion, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham offered a sublime account of another work long a favorite at Catholic services, Schubert's "Ave Maria," accompanied by organ. Graham possesses one of the most intrinsically beautiful voices of our time, not to mention exceptional interpretive instincts, and this solemn occasion benefitted greatly from her art.