Time and time again, Yo-Yo Ma has captivated audiences with his stunning masterpieces and truly awe-inspiring performances. The Essential Yo-Yo Ma 2-Disc set includes 35 of Yo-Yo Ma’s greatest masterpieces ranging from The Swan from Carnival of the Animals, Cristal, Gabriel’s Oboe and even the epic The Eternal Vow from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Sony Classics. 2005.
Here are three dozen pieces of music, all played by Yo-Yo Ma, culled from his extensive discography. Aside from the technical mastery and beautiful tone that are absolutes in all of his playing, one is dazzled by his curiosity and ability to adapt to so many forms and types of music. His Bach and Vivaldi are pellucid and played with non-sentimental crispness, his tango music gritty and rhythmically pungent, his jazz seemingly spontaneous, the “Meditation” from Thais simply ravishing, “Anything Goes” a romp, and the Appalachian music performed with both respect and a great twang, while the traditional Chinese music is fascinating. It’s really a matter of how much Ma loves whatever he plays here, how entirely he becomes involved in it, and what a fine partner he invariably is to other musicians. This collection is a doozy–it is truly “essential.” –Robert Levine