This is a charming, lovely, beautiful, even adorable recording just as charming and adorable as Yo-Yo Ma's previous "Simply Baroque" recording. Suffice it to say, if you liked the first you'll love the second. It offers more beautiful tunes by Bach and gorgeous concertos by Boccherini performed with exquisite taste and musicianship by the world's best-loved cellist, accompanied by Ton Koopman, one the world's greatest Bach interpreters, and recorded in warm, atmospheric sound.
Performing on the Baroque cello (outfitted with gut strings and without an endpin, making it so that the performer has to clutch the instrument between his/her legs), Yo-Yo Ma delivers the warm, listener-friendly classical music that he has become known for. Supported by conductor Ton Koopman's period Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Ma presents a wholly unusual interpretation of some of Bach's better known Baroque works, as well as some lesser known pieces by Italian composer Luigi Boccherini.
Previn's Four Songs, using poems by Toni Morrison, continues the US song tradition established by Copland. They may not be strikingly original in style (they owe a debt to 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson), but they are very attractive, idiomatically American and movingly evocative of their texts. The set was written for Sylvia McNair, with a plangent cello obbligato for Yo-Yo Ma. McNair is outstanding here, her voice radiant but warm, soaring but secure.
The follow-up album to the highly successful Appalachia Waltz collaboration, Appalachian Journey continues the combination of classical music with Appalachian, bluegrass, and American roots music in general. Yo-Yo Ma, alongside violinist Mark O'Connor and bass player Edgar Meyer, runs through a number of original compositions fusing the traditions, as well as a few old standards from the genre repertoire.
This is a beautiful performance of the Suites, certainly one of my favorites. Ma tunes his strings down a half step, giving his cello a warmer, richer tone than his 80s recording (pink cover). All in all, the differences between the two recordings are startling, and it is very interesting to compare the two. I especially like the more dancelike movements (examples: Suite 1 - Courante, Suite 2 - Minuets), and don't believe that anyone else plays them with as much elegance, which I think is the greatest attribute of Yo-Yo Ma's recordings.
This is a magnificent compliation even if it's only "snippets" - but what beautiful snippets they are - especially the "Romance in F minor for Violin and Orchestra" with Itzah Perlman, "Silent Woods", "Humoresque in E-flat minor with the marvelous Rudolf Firkusny (recorded not long before he died), but the frosting on the cake is Frederica von Stade's melting aria "O Moon High up in the Deep Sky" from Rusalka. (It reminded me a little of "Ebben? Ne andro lontana" Renee Fleming: By Request that gained so much traction back in the 80s as part of the soundtrack of "Diva" with Wilhelmenia Fernandez). .