Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune 

The cellist Yo-Yo-Ma leading the Civic Orchestra in a rehearsal, back in March, preparing for this week's shows. 

The renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, opened his week stint at the Symphony Center last night with a free performance with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. A part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rivers Festival, the sold-out show (tickets had to be reserved in advance) featured three works: J.L. Adams, A Northern Suite; Joseph Haydn, Cello Concerto in C Major; and Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 6.

Yo-Yo Ma joined the orchestra for the cello concerto, Haydn’s playful piece known for its energy and lyricism. It really showed—the cellist smiled and bounced around in his seat as he played. He shook the hands of his fellow musicians before the concerto and hugged them after, then came back for a second round of applause.

Now, I’m not a regular symphony-goer, and it seemed the crowd wasn't, either. There were a few misplaced applauses, and each performance ended in a standing ovation.

But cheers to CSO for this unique opportunity. The chance to see such a fine performance for free might lure a few of us back for more.

Catch Yo-Yo Ma later this week: On 5/15, there's Yo-Yo Ma and CSO Musicians; on 5/18 (for just $5), Yo-Yo Ma is in a discussion at the Rivers Symposium with panelists Jerome McDonnell, John Briscoe, David Blackbourn, Jerome Delli Priscoli, and Michael Silvers. Symphony Center, 220 N. Michicagan,