"Hope Amid Tears," the new album by Yo-Yo Ma together with his friend and pianist Emanuel Ax, presents Beethoven’s five sonatas for cello and piano in the order in which they were composed, tracing an important arc in Beethoven’s development and approach as a composer. Joining them are Beethoven’s three sets of variations for cello and piano.
Ma and Ax have made music together for more than 40 years, recording dozens of albums, earning five Grammy Awards, and performing on stages all over the world. Their friendship is not only rooted in a deep love of music, but also a shared sense of humor and keen perspectives on life’s joys and challenges. Hope Amid Tears is their second recording of the complete Beethoven cello sonatas, after a 1987 effort that earned the duo their second Grammy.
The title is an allusion to the possibly apocryphal story that, in 1809, Beethoven sent a copy of the recently-completed Sonata No. 3 to his friend Ignaz von Gleichenstein with the note “Inter lacrimas et luctum”—“amid tears and grief.” At the time, Vienna was embroiled in the chaos of the Napoleonic Wars, and many of Beethoven’s closest friends and supporters had fled the city. But in this period of loneliness and isolation, compounded by his increasingly profound deafness, Beethoven nonetheless completed works of enduring spirit.