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“Yo-Yo Ma: Crossing Borders...A Musical Journey”
CD 1 [1]: Cole Porter: Anything Goes: Anything Goes – Easy to Love – I Concentrate on You – Just One of Those Things – In the Still of the Night – Love of my Life – So in Love – All Through the Night; Ettore Stratta: Pas de Two; Cliff Burrell: Sweet Lorraine; CD 2 [2]: Claude Bolling: Suite for Cello & Jazz Piano Trio; CD 3 [3]: Bobby McFerrin: Grace – Stars – Coyote – Hoedown – Goodbye; Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in D minor for 2 Mandolins, RV. 532: “Andante”; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee; Traditional: Hush Little Baby; Sergei Rachmaninoff: Vocalise, opus 34, n° 14; Johann-Sebastian Bach: Musette in D major, BWV Anh. 126 and Air for G String (arr. A. Wilhemj) from Orchestral Suite n° 3 in D major, BWV 1068; Jean-Baptiste Barrière: Sonata n° 10 in G major: “Allegro Prestissimo”; Charles Gounod: Ave Maria; CD 4 [4]: Traditional: The Green Grove of Erin/The Flowers of Red Hill – Chief Sitting in the Rain – College Hornpipe – Star of the County Down – Speed the Plow Medley; Mark O’Connor [5]: Appalachia Waltz – Butterfly’s Night Out – C.G. Jig – Old Country Fairytale – Fair Dancer Reel; Edgar Meyer [6]: Mama – First Impressions – Etiene et Petunia – Pickles – Schizzozy; Mark O’Connor/Edgar Meyer: Druid Fluid; CD 5 [5a] [7, 8, 9] : Mark O’Connor [5, 6a]: Misty Moonlight Waltz – Limerock – Emily’s Reel – Poem for Carlita – Caprice for Three – Vistas; Edgar Meyer: 1B – Indecision – Duet for Cello & Bass – Cloverfoot Reel – Second Time Around; James Taylor: Benjamin; Stephen Foster: Hard Times Come Again No More – Slumber My Darling; Traditional: Fisher’s Hornpipe; CD 6 [10]: Astor Piazzolla (arr. J. Calandrelli): Libertango – Tango Suite: “Andante-Allegro” (arr. S. Assad) – Regreso al Amor – Le Grand Tango - Fugata – Mumuki – Tres minutos con la realidad – Milonga del Angel – Café 1930; Jorge Calandrelli/Astor Piazzolla: Tango Remembrances; CD 7 [11]: César Camargo Mariano: Cristal – Samambaia; Antônio Carlos Jobim: Chega de Saudade; Heitor Villa-Lobos: A Lenda Do Cabocio – Alma Brasileira; Jacob do Bandolim: Doce De Coco; Mozart Camargo Guarnieri: Dansa brasileira – Dansa negra; Baden Powell: Apelo; Pixinguinha: I X O (um a zero) – Carinhoso; Sergio Assad: Menino; Unknown: O amore em paz; Egberto Gismonti & G.E. Carniero: Bodas de Prata – Quatro Cantos; Waldir Azevedo: Brasileirinho; Egberto Gismonti: Salvador; CD 8 [12]: Traditional: Mongolian Long Song [14]; Byambasuren Sharav: Legend of Herlen; Chinese Traditional: Blue Little Flow – Mido Mountain; Zhao Jiping: Moon Over Guan Mountain; Michio Mamiya: 5 Finnish Folk Songs – Miero vuotti uutta kuuta & Joiku; Franghiz Ali-Zadeh: Habil-Sayagy (In Habil’s Style); Kayhan Kalhor: Blue as a Turquoise Night of Neyshabur; Filippo Azzaiolo: Chi passa per’sta strada; Tan Dun: Desert Capriccio: Music from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”; CD 9 [13]: Kosaku Yamada: Matsushima Ondo – Chugoku Chiho No Komoriuta; Rentaro Taki: Kojo-no-Tsuki; Traditional: Zui-Zui Zukkorobashi – Sakura, Sakura; Haseo Sugiyama: Defune; Kozaburo Harai: Nara-Yama; Hidemaro Konoye: Chin-Chin-Chidori; Kunihiko Hashimoto: Oroku-Musume; Michio Mamiya: Chiran Bushi

Yo-Yo Ma [1-13], Edward Arron [12] (cello), Bobby McFerrin [3], Ganbaatarun Khongorzul [14] (vocals), Roger Kellaway [1] (piano/musical arrangements), Claude Bolling [2], Edgar Meyer [6], Kathryn Stott [11], Frank Corliss, Geraldo Gandini [10], Helio Alves [11], César Camargo Mariano [11] (piano), Patricia Zander [13] (harpsichord), Paquito D’Rivera [11] (clarinet), Masami Nakagawa [13] (flute), Egberto Gismonti [11] (flute, guitar [arranger]), James Taylor [7] , Rosa Passos [11] (guitar and vocals), Romero Lubambo [11] (cavaquinho guitar), Stephane Grappelli [1], Mark O’Connor [5], Antonio Agri [10] (violin), Allison Krause [8] (violin and vocals), Nicholas Cards [12] (viola), Mark O’Connor [5] (mandolin), Astor Piazzolla, Nestor Marconi [10] (bandoneon), Mike Fossett [1], Sergio and Adair Assad [10], Horacio Malvicino [10] (guitar), Oscar Caster-Neves [10] (acoustic guitar), Bela Fleck [9] (banjo), Morin Khuur [12] (Mongolian horsehead fiddle), Siamak Aghaei [12] (santur), Jon Burr [1], Marc Michel [2], Edgar Meyer [6], Hector Console, Edwin Barker [10], Hiroaki Baka [13] (bass), Edgar Meyer [6a] (double bass), Daniel Humair [1], Stephan Dunkel [12] (trombone), Jean-Luc Dayan [2], Paulinho Braga [11] (drums), Sandeep Das [12] (tabla), Wu Man [12] (pipa), Gyro Baptista [11], José DaSilva [11], José DeFaria, Sumire Yoshiwara [13] (percussion), Silkroad Ensemble [12], Pro Musica Nipponia [13], Muchio Mamiya [13] (conductor, arranger)
Recording: Studio Davout, Paris, France (June 7, 1989) [1] and September 2, 1983 [2]; Nashville Sound Emporium, Tennessee (August 17, 1995) [3, 4]; Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts (July 19-21, 1999) [5a], Ocean Way Nashville Studio, Tennessee (September 10, 1999) [5a], El Pie Studios, Buenos Aires, Argentina (May 28-29, 1997), Blue Jay Studios, Boston, Massachusetts (April 2-4, 1997), Ocean Way Studios, Los Angeles, California (March 12, 1997) [6, 10]; Right Track Studio A509, New York City, New York (August 8-15, 2002), Sonic Temple, Roslindale, Massachusetts (March 13, 2002), Clinton Studios A, New York City, New York (August 17, 2002) [11], Niiza-Shimin-Kaikin Hall, Tokyo, Japan (November 25, 1983) [13] – 551’ 30
9 CDs Sony Classical 194399-162026

Superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma may be the principal soloist on the new 9-disc compilation “Crossing Borders”, but it is clear from the start that this is a musically egalitarian collective of music over the last 40 years with composers and musicians across borders physical and aesthetic. Priced at around $35 this set of re-issued recordings by Sony is a priceless trove of global music curated as an immersive and inspiring musical journey.

Disc 1: Anything Goes
What could be more beguiling than a collection of Yo-Yo Ma recordings with the opening track featuring the cellist and legendary violinist Stephan Grappelli in a rendition of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, followed by a full set of instrumentals of Porter classics including Easy to Love (Ma in jazz bass), In the Still of the Night, Concentrate on You, among others. Recorded in the 90s when there was a renewed appreciation of rediscovery of Cole Porter’s music by pop vocal artists, Ma’s deep dive for these instrumental recordings proves that even without Cole’s ‘sizzling lyrics’ his music is still Too Darn Hot!

~& speaking of the jazz age...

Disc 2: Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano
Claude Bolling’s dynamic piano counterpoints first appear in the Baroque in Rhythm, and then Bolling’s themes bloom with a Concertante movement and scintillating jazz/classic idioms of Galop, Ballade, Romantique and the Cello Fan (a virtuosissimo for Ma)...stellar musicianship all around with Bolling’s bandmates Marc Michel on bass and Jean-Luc Dayan on drums. This 1983 session belongs on the shelf with the birth of “classical cool”. This is a lively studio session that has the energy of an afterhours live jam.

~then there’s cello & Vocalese

Disc 3: Hush Bobby McFerrin
Recorded over three days in Woodstock, New York, this inspired collaboration with composer/vocalist Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma is comprised of McFerrin compositions, featuring his indelible jazz vocalese interplay with compositions by Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff, Gounod, Bach, Jean-Baptiste Barrière and Rimsky-Korsakov. McFerrin’s voice hovers around Ma’s hushed cello lines of Flight of the Bumble Bee as he scats in the trilling zone with those buzzing strings. Then McFerrin’s compositions, Grace, Stars, Coyote, Hoedown and Goodbye are glittering flights of vocal fancy with Ma’s cello equally virtuosic and witty. McFerrin’s and Ma’s rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise simply just stops time, and for this listener, the mind and the soul. The live track of a J.S. Bach’s Musette starts off with a comedy riff from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze. But then McFerrin and Ma follow with Bach’s Air and a sublime ascension to baroque heaven.

~so, let’s dance

Disc 4: Appalachia Waltz
The opening tracks of the traditional The Green Grove of Erin/ The Flowers of Red Hill evoke many of the musically bountiful themes explored by composers Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer that are followed by misty pastorales, yearning ballades and fiery hoedown fiddling, depicting the enduring classic regional and Blue Ridge Mountain musicality. O’Connor’s title song, Appalachia Waltz, is an adagio dance with such tenderness and transcendence. Who can resist his rowdy fiddling on the traditional tune Chief Sitting in the Rain, or the restless mandolin, fluttering around Ma’s warm strings of Butterfly Day Out. In contrast, Meyer and O’Connor co-wrote Druid Fluid which unspools as a jazzy reel. The interplay of Myer’s well-deep bass rhythms, O’Connor’s flighty fiddle and Ma’s cello chromatic lines, all in tri-counterpoint, is a true barnburner. There’s a string duel of bass and cello in Meyer’s composition, Mama, and a more traditional Fair Dancer Reel (the final track) that’s a virtuosic dustup for Ma and O’Connor.

~but, nobody was ready to get home

Disc 5: Appalachian Journey
The musical mountain journey continues with Meyer and O’Connor and guest artists Alison Krauss (violin), Bela Fleck (banjo) and James Taylor (guitar and vocals) that all hop on the trail for a dozen tunes. James Taylor’s warm vocal in Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More couldn’t be more meaningful for 2022, from sea to battered sea. One gets hung up on those insistent country blue notes in Meyer’s haunting Indecision, but there’s always time for O’Connor’s Moonlight Waltz for one to be spirited away to the romantic shadows….again. And after Foster’s serenade, Slumber My Darling, the session ends with the captivating strings of O’Connor’s Vistas to beckon us to new heights, musical and otherwise.

~all points south for a Tango tour

Disc 6: Soul of the Tango - Music of Astor Piazzolla
Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango instantly conjures atmospherics of Yo-Yo Ma’s collection, Soul of the Tango, with the lustiest orchestral arrangement by Jorge Calandrelli. The dance is ignited by Ma’s meaty basso alongside Horacio Malvicino’s lyrical guitar and Antonio Agri’s protagonist violin. Horacio Malvicino’s lead guitar states the yearning, romantic theme inside the Tango Suite: “Andante-Allegro” with a counterpoint on Ma’s cello. Yo-Yo Ma then ignites in the ensuing Regreso al Amor with the dark voices of the lower strings to illustrate a troubled romance, combined by Hector Console’s piano and Nestor Marconi’s bandoneon to partner a broken heart. From there, this compilation lives up to its name. Among the many outstanding soloists: Kathryn Stott’s smoldering piano on Le Grand Tango and the Fugata (co-composed by Piazzolla and Jorge Callandrelli) with its pugilistic tango and smoldering abrazo depicting couples on the dizzying dancefloor. This is authentic Buenos Aires café Tango music circa 1925. As they say in dance...this is not “tango for export”...it’s the real thing!

~and heading East for all points basso breezes

Disc 7: “Obrigato Brazil”
Composer César Camargo Mariano opens this compilation as composer/pianist in the brisk prelude titled, Cristal, accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma’s soaring cello which was featured on the album, “Obrigato Brazil”. Later, Mariano presents the café jazz piano duet of Ma and cavaquinho guitarist Romero Lubambo in Samambaia. Then there is the cool bossa nova rhythms of Antônio Carlos Jobim, the warmest vocals of Rosa Passos in Chega de Saudade and later with the breezy samba, O amor em paz. Heitor Villa-Lobos’ somber opening to Alma Brasileira interplays between Kathryn Stott and Yo-Yo Ma that unfolds into a tumultuous duet. Brasileirinho is a quick-step big-band rhumba by Waldo Azevedo that will have you dancing on your feet. It is followed up by the scintillating cello–guitar romanza finale bonus track by Egberto Gismonti entitled, Salvador.

~stranded on a desert island

Disc 8: Silkroad Journeys/When Strangers Meet
Yo-Yo Ma founded the Silkroad Ensemble in the 90s with the mission to bring artists from around the world and create music that ‘engages their many traditions’. This title is indeed a time-capsule of regional musical lineage and enduring global legacies. This transporting compilation opens with vocalist Ganbaataryn Khonqorzul’s a cappella invocation of the traditional Mongolian Long Song…a piercing prelude to the mythic drums that summon inside the Legend of Herlen by contemporary composer Byambasuren Sharav with an orchestra suited with ancient instruments with Ma playing the morin khuur, a Mongolian horsehead fiddle. It is the first of three long form orchestrals performed on traditional instruments. Such entrancing Chinese classics of Blue Little Flower and Mido Mountain elicit tonal meditations that give way to spirited dances. Contemporary composer Zhao Jiping’s entrancing Moon Over Guan Mountain begins as a pastoral orchestra that gives way to multicultural orchestrations and a central, rousing dialogue by cello (Ma), tabla (Sandeep Das) and pipa (Wu Man). The longbow opening cello passage of Kayhan Kalhor’s Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur evokes an unknown journey. Then an almost ceremonial progression of orchestral waves builds into a kaleidoscopic sound field. The thrilling surge of voices - cello, violin, viola, tabla, setar - vault into an Indian dance of mythic flight. This collection articulates so many universal musical gifts. For me, this disc was a profound experience due to its timeless expression and peerless musicianship.

~Pacific Overtures

Disc 9: Japanese Melodies
This disc highlights Japanese music from composers spanning 150 years and performed with traditional instruments. Composer Michio Mamiya conducts Yo-Yo Ma, harpsichordist Patricia Zander and the Pro Musica Nipponia ensemble. This collection opens with music by Kosaku Yamada who used 19th century percussive rituals of Matsushima-Ondo. This is followed by young composer Rentaro Taki (1879-1903). The performance of Taki’s Kojo no Tsuki is a haunting and mystical neoclassical work for harpsichord and strings. Haseo Sugiyama’s Defune houses the yearning, sonorous strings by Yo-Yo Ma and Patricia Zander’s gothic harpsichord. Nara-Yama, by Kozaburo Hirai, is both minimalist and operatic. Long bowed lines for Ma are sustained which he does with such soulful command. The melodies of the traditional song Sakura, Sakura as well as Hidemaro Konoye’s Chin-Chin-Chidori evoke pastorales, perhaps with journeys of the heart. This leads into the driving Oroku-Musume from early 20th century composer Kunihiko Hashimoto that is followed by the final stunner, Chiran Bushi by Michio Mamiya in yet another captivating fusion of ancient and modernist Japanese music.

Lewis J. Whittington




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