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Chamber Music - Released August 17, 2018 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
What do you mean, “Six evolutions”? It’s an intriguing title, almost esoteric… The cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who needs no introduction after a worldwide career of some fifty years, pens here his third (and ultimate, according to him) recording of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites. The first, while he was in his twenties, gave rise to enthusiasm, the second—in his forties—gave rise to emotion, so what will this final vision give rise to, now that he is in his late sixties? Serenity and joy, probably, and the completion of a triple discographic evolution. That being said, we still cannot explain the “Six evolutions”, and you will have to dive into a small corner of the accompanying booklet to find an indication, giving little more information, it is true, since it comes with no clarification: 1) Nature is at play, 2) Journey toward the light, 3) Celebration, 4) Construction/Development, 5) The struggle for hope, and 6) Epiphany. Well… Whatever it be, and despite what he said—and the amazing quality of this interpretation—let’s meet in 2038 to find out if he doesn’t decide to give a new interpretation in his eighties! © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 18, 2015 | Masterworks

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
Here's a recording that amply demonstrates why Yo-Yo Ma has reached perhaps a wider public than any other serious classical musician. Over the course of his career he has vastly expanded the classical repertory while still staying true to its core. There has been a profound idealism, a high-mindedness, to what he does, combined with an ability to reach ordinary listeners that the greats of the past often mastered, but that is a rare commodity these days. He has rarely recorded short crowd-pleasers and it is typical of his genius that now, when he does so, he does it in an entirely compelling way. The core of the program consists of well-loved classical tunes, including one of the best-loved of all, the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. But Ma varies the concept in two ways. The first has to do with the explicit program, depicting the "arc of life." The pieces proceed from childhood to youth, adulthood, and finally "beau soir" and death, and the whole thing is nicely explored in the notes in the form of a conversation between Ma and his longtime accompanist Kathryn Stott. They make these rather generic pieces seem like the most personal thing in the world. Then, on top of this, Ma and Stott pick some pieces that aren't common encores at all, such as the "Louange à l'éternité de Jésus," from the Quartet for the end of time. These are exceptionally well chosen to modulate the moods of the arc of life, and by the final group of pieces even the skeptical may well find themselves hypnotized. Throw in superb sound from perhaps the premier American recording venue, Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, and you have an exceptional package that should rightly put Ma and Stott back at the top of the charts. © James Manheim /TiVo
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Trios - Released September 15, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or / Arte
You may rightly be suspicious of all-star chamber groups: for each one that clicks, four seem put together for purely commercial purposes. But the piano trio on this Sony release, beautifully recorded at what is arguably the premiere American venue acoustically, Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, does not even really fall under that classification, even though all three members are certainly stars. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax are collaborators of long standing, and the interplay between the two here is consistently profound, with Ma's warmth setting off Ax's agile skittering. Too, the trios are made for Yo-Yo Ma, with the contrapuntal intricacy of the music giving the cello lots to do, and in particular giving him a chance to display his wondrous melodic gift. Sample the cello material of the Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8. The early work is played here in its 1890 revision, which Brahms altered in many essential ways while leaving the opening intact, and you may wish to own this double album for this moment alone. The opening movement of the Piano Trio No. 2 in C major, Op. 87, is a masterpiece of crisp, confident playing all around, and really the music here ranges from consistent to exceptional, and never leaves any of the performers in his own world. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released December 11, 2020 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released April 7, 2017 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released September 28, 2004 | Sony Classical

Sure to remain a top seller on the classical charts for some time to come, Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone is a new installment in the great cellist's long series of crossover albums. It diverges from most of the others, however, in its collaborative aspect: the music's original creator, Morricone, had as much to do with this album as did Ma and his creative team. Morricone's career in film music began during the era of the spaghetti Western in the 1960s and has flourished ever since, on both sides of the Atlantic. Morricone and Ma met at the 2001 Academy Awards, where Ma was performing and Morricone was nominated for his score to Giuseppe Tornatore's Malèna. They hatched the idea for this album together, and all the adaptations of Morricone's music are his own. He also conducts the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra. Overall, the results are gorgeous. Morricone opens and closes the album with pairs of excerpts from two individual films, The Mission and the rarely seen The Lady Caliph. In between are four suites of excerpts, three of them associated with Morricone's favorite directorial collaborators (Sergio Leone, Brian de Palma, and Tornatore). These suites, comprising varied but closely related stretches of music, really allow Ma to go to town. He has rarely achieved a more lushly beautiful tone or a more direct emotional appeal. Morricone deftly adapts his music for the cello-and-orchestra combination. At different times, Ma's cello plays the role of another solo instrument (the pan pipes in the Mission score, for instance), sings the wordless vocal lines that populate many of Morricone's scores, or plays lines of orchestral counterpoint that are elaborated into some pretty fancy fingerwork. The only complaints pertain to the selection of music, and it's debatable whether there's really anything to complain about. Represented here are Morricone's big, romantic scores, mostly of fairly recent vintage. Cinema Paradiso, two cues from which are included, is an example casual filmgoers may be acquainted with. The edgier, more experimental scores Morricone wrote for Western and suspense films are ignored, and it was these that endeared the composer to scenesters like John Zorn, who recorded a memorable deconstruction of The Big Gundown some years ago. On the few tracks where electronic elements are introduced, they aren't well integrated into the general concept. As a whole, though, the album hangs together wonderfully, and the music can stand up to anything in the current neo-Romantic rage. Play the "Cockeye's Song" cue from Once Upon a Time in America for classical purists unfamiliar with Morricone, and ask them to guess the composer. Watch them squirm. And then introduce one of the great composers of our time, presented by one of our foremost interpreters. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 1983 | Sony Classical

Yo-Yo Ma recorded J.S. Bach's Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites on two occasions, first for release on LP in 1983, then again in 1997 on CD. It is the 1983 recording that is presented here, and the original digital recordings have been mastered to enhance the cello's sound. Ma's readings of Bach are fairly liberal in rhythm and phrasing and are decidedly more intuitive than analytical, with plenty of rubato and elongation of lines to suggest something like a free Romantic interpretation, far from any Baroque period re-creation. For some listeners who are fans of historically informed or authentic performances of Bach, this may be a stumbling block; but for most, Ma's expressive playing will seem satisfactory and quite enjoyable, if not exactly revelatory. There is a pensive quality to these performances that will strike some as introspective and probing, while others may find them a bit self-indulgent and studied; either way, Ma falls short of ecstatic communion with the music and delivers a technically polished and intelligent performance that has grace and elegance, if not the deepest emotions or visionary heights. Competing with the magnificent recordings by Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, and Mstislav Rostropovich, this set can't be regarded as the last word in Bach's cello suites; however, it has held its own for many listeners over the years, and it clearly deserves its place in the catalog. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 19, 2020 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released October 24, 2011 | Sony Classical

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World - Released September 10, 2021 | Sony Classical

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Film Soundtracks - Released November 22, 2005 | Sony Classical

John Williams skillfully utilizes the formidable talents of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and equally beloved violinist Itzhak Perlman to flesh out director Rob Marshall's celluloid rendering of the bestselling novel by Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha. Elegant and predictable, Williams sticks to the source, building grand Western themes off of traditional Japanese melodies with a heady mix of regional instrumentation (shakuhachi and koto) and cinematic know-how. This is the composer at his most refined and nuanced, providing a textbook example of professional composition that revels in its subject matter without ever intruding. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 3, 2011 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released April 6, 2004 | Sony Classical

Unlike the recent Classic Yo-Yo, really a single-disc sampler of the recorded work of our true superstar cellist, The Essential Yo-Yo Ma purports to be something more -- the Yo-Yo Ma album to own if you're going to own just one. Where Classic Yo-Yo more or less alternated track by track between Ma's straight classical and crossover music, The Essential Yo-Yo Ma devotes one of its two discs to the classics and the other to a generous sampling of music Ma has explored from around the popular sphere and around the world, including selections from his Silk Road Project and from his disc devoted to the music of Ennio Morricone. There's a lot to be said for this approach; Ma has really maintained parallel classical and crossover careers, and when it comes to actualy mixing things up on the concert stage, others have been bolder than he. The crossover second disc is nicely sequenced and remastered, concluding with a previously unreleased arrangement of "I Could Have Danced All Night" as a bonus track. It's a very reasonable greatest-hits group. The first disc is less successful as a representation of Ma's abilities in traditional repertoire. No complete multi-movement works are included, and most of the performances included are of the encore type. The disc moves more or less chronologically, beginning with a group of Bach and Vivaldi melodies (though Ma's involvement with Vivaldi is underrepresented by the single Four Seasons movement included) and proceeding to Romantic and late Romantic works. Many of these pieces (Gershwin's Prelude No. 1, Rachmaninov's Vocalise, Massenet's Méditation) are arrangements, and a few could have been sacrificed to make room for the consistent warmth that Ma brings to, say, Dvorák's cello concerto. Still, there's nothing here that makes this set anything less than a good introduction to a great musician, one who connects with audiences in a way that was second nature to the famed virtuosi of the past. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 30, 2004 | Sony Classical

There are people who buy everything Yo-Yo Ma releases, and that's a good thing: his incessant musical curiosity and his ability to carry his audience with him constitute a true bright spot in today's classical music scene. Fans of the two Simply Baroque discs Ma recorded with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra will find much to like in Vivaldi's Cello, featuring the same musicians and offering several Vivaldi cello concertos plus Vivaldi works arranged for cello and ensemble by Koopman. Ma once again nicely adapts his warm, ebullient style to the quiet, gut-strung 1712 Stradivarius instrument (Jerry Seinfeld might call it a "low talker") he played on the earlier albums, and much of the music is both scintillating and unfamiliar. The only two chestnuts included are the Largo movement of the "Winter" Four Seasons concerto and a section of the Gloria, RV 589; the concertos rage and roil, and the disc ends effectively and prayerfully with a pair of slow opera arias. Nevertheless, Vivaldi's Cello leaves something to be desired as a Baroque disc. The problems lie not with Ma but with Koopman and the disc's engineers. Koopman's textures, striving for muscularity, verge on being too busy, and his continuo playing sometimes competes with Ma's cello rather than supporting it. Koopman claims that his arrangements have done nothing that wouldn't have been done in Vivaldi's time, and when it comes to reworking opera arias he's right -- but does any eighteenth century instruction manual contain outrageous harpsichord moves like the bizarre unpitched tremolo heard in a striking Mannheim Rocket-like figure 40 seconds into the very first track? And Koopman's harpsichord is miked so loud that it tends to drown Ma out. In all, Vivaldi's Cello is a cluttered canvas, even if one with sections of great beauty. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 21, 2015 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released August 23, 2013 | Masterworks

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Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble has continued to develop its intercultural ways, exploring those along the trade routes (maritime as well as land-based) that stretched for centuries from the Mediterranean world to China and even beyond. (The Silk Road brought Indian culture and later the Islamic faith to Indonesia, and one hopes that the group might someday take up that musically fascinating one, so well suited to its syncretic way of thinking.) Ma has had the pleasure of seeing his creation gradually become more independent; he appears on several pieces but takes a starring role only once or twice. Generally he leaves the spotlight to the young players of the Silk Road Ensemble, whose trademark combination of enthusiasm and precision is on full display throughout. Sample the incredible intensity in the final "Briel," taken from from John Zorn's Caym: Book of Angels XVII, originally performed by Cyro Baptista & Banquest of the Spirits, and further arranged by the ensemble itself. The program includes a general mix that typifies the group's genre- and border-crossing ways, with highlights including a suite by MacArthur "genius grant" winner Vijay Iyer and the Central Asian gypsy jazz of David Bruce's "Cut the Rug." © James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 28, 2004 | Sony Classical

Sure to remain a top seller on the classical charts for some time to come, Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone is a new installment in the great cellist's long series of crossover albums. It diverges from most of the others, however, in its collaborative aspect: the music's original creator, Morricone, had as much to do with this album as did Ma and his creative team. Morricone's career in film music began during the era of the spaghetti Western in the 1960s and has flourished ever since, on both sides of the Atlantic. Morricone and Ma met at the 2001 Academy Awards, where Ma was performing and Morricone was nominated for his score to Giuseppe Tornatore's Malèna. They hatched the idea for this album together, and all the adaptations of Morricone's music are his own. He also conducts the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra. Overall, the results are gorgeous. Morricone opens and closes the album with pairs of excerpts from two individual films, The Mission and the rarely seen The Lady Caliph. In between are four suites of excerpts, three of them associated with Morricone's favorite directorial collaborators (Sergio Leone, Brian de Palma, and Tornatore). These suites, comprising varied but closely related stretches of music, really allow Ma to go to town. He has rarely achieved a more lushly beautiful tone or a more direct emotional appeal. Morricone deftly adapts his music for the cello-and-orchestra combination. At different times, Ma's cello plays the role of another solo instrument (the pan pipes in the Mission score, for instance), sings the wordless vocal lines that populate many of Morricone's scores, or plays lines of orchestral counterpoint that are elaborated into some pretty fancy fingerwork. The only complaints pertain to the selection of music, and it's debatable whether there's really anything to complain about. Represented here are Morricone's big, romantic scores, mostly of fairly recent vintage. Cinema Paradiso, two cues from which are included, is an example casual filmgoers may be acquainted with. The edgier, more experimental scores Morricone wrote for Western and suspense films are ignored, and it was these that endeared the composer to scenesters like John Zorn, who recorded a memorable deconstruction of The Big Gundown some years ago. On the few tracks where electronic elements are introduced, they aren't well integrated into the general concept. As a whole, though, the album hangs together wonderfully, and the music can stand up to anything in the current neo-Romantic rage. Play the "Cockeye's Song" cue from Once Upon a Time in America for classical purists unfamiliar with Morricone, and ask them to guess the composer. Watch them squirm. And then introduce one of the great composers of our time, presented by one of our foremost interpreters. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 26, 2001 | Masterworks

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Classical - Released November 11, 1997 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released April 7, 2017 | Nonesuch

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Yo-Yo Ma in the magazine
  • Yo-Yo Ma & Emanuel Ax - The Reunion
    Yo-Yo Ma & Emanuel Ax - The Reunion Fourty years after their first complete recording of the same works, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax reunite as two venerable white-haired gentlemen.