"Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach" is one of several titles in Sony's new "Music For You" Series, easily identified by their artsy, photographic covers. The material on this CD has been available previously on CBS Masterworks. True, Ma does play music by Bach, but it is sonatas (originally intended for viola da gamba and not cello) by Bach, and the Sinfonia Concertante by Bach's youngest son, Johann Christian Bach. Not that Sony is lying and not that most people will care or feel cheated, but since this title is obviously aimed at classical novices, I just thought I'd set the record straight. In a similar vein, hopefully those that discover both Bach and Yo-Yo Ma via this disc will like what they hear, and go on to get one of Ma's two recordings of the Bach "Cello Suites" – the real yardstick for composer and performer alike. ~Amazon
This disc introduces Yo-Yo Ma's latest and most ambitious adventure, the Silk Road Project. It explores the cultures that flourished along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that for centuries connected Europe and the East. Founded by Ma in 1998, the project aims to create connections, mutual trust, and cultural interchange between people from different parts of the world through their only shared language: music. This recording includes music from Mongolia, China, Persia, Japan, Iran, Azerbaijan, and an improvisation on an Italian Renaissance street song, performed by musicians from all those countries, as well as America, on both Eastern and Western instruments. Ma, who participates in every piece either as soloist or part of the ensemble, plays cello and a Mongolian "horse-head fiddle." There is also a Mongolian soprano, who sings a traditional song native to her region.
Bach showed that the cello can dance, but composers from Rossini to Shostakovich have favored it as an instrument of pensive reflection and brooding melancholy. The playful cover photo notwithstanding, SOLO features Yo-Yo Ma in five 20th century cello works of a serious nature, all with folk influence and all echoing at least a bit of the troubles of the times in which they were written.