Soloby Yo-Yo Ma
Maestro Ma once again shows his musical acumen in this program of diverse works for solo cello. He brings out the inner calm of Mark O'Connor's folksy "Appalachia Waltz," which makes the hill country seem like a harmonious Eden. Folk melodies also charm in Bright Sheng's characterful "Seven Tunes Heard in China." Some of these whimsical cameos, like "The Drunken Fisherman," transform the cello into a bedraggled-sounding guitar. David Wilde's "The Cellist of Sarajevo" pays tribute to a courageous musician who played for his countrymen in the streets of their war-torn capital. Ma's interpretation is appropriately somber. A suite by the Russian-born composer Alexander Tcherepnin offers an edgy melodic interlude in a unique blend of Asian and Parisian musical influences. Ma, who studied with Tcherepnin's son Ivan at Harvard, plays with special tenderness. Kodály's highly dramatic Sonata for Solo Cello is vigorously passionate and sweet-toned. The rambunctious Allegro movement is particularly impressive as the cellist abandons his usual gentility and digs into the music. This disc is one of Ma's best.
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Being a college student in cello performance, I naturally bought this CD (much to my delight). O'Connor's piece was very beautiful, although a little shaky in some spots. The ease with which Ma plays Sheng's Seven Tunes Heard in China prompted me to buy the sheet music and attempt studying it. The Wilde and Tcherepnin pieces didn't stand out quite so much, and unfortunately I can neither remember what they sound like or his playing of them. However, the Kodaly sonata was to me like a light being flipped on in a dark room. I was instantly taken by Kodaly's skill at writing for the solo instrument and by Ma's accurate interpretation and dynamic character. It quickly became one of my favorite pieces for the instrument and on this album. I highly recommend this CD.
I bought this Cd because I wanted to hear Kodaly's Sonata for Cello Op.8/Duo, Op.7. Ma's performance of this piece is mild at best. Do yourself a favor and purchase Janos Starker's Bottermund: Variations On A Theme By Paganini/Kodály: Sonata, Op.8/Duo, Op.7 instead.
I'd like to add onto my initial review for this CD after giving it more play time. I believe Ma's Tcherepnin Suite for Solo Cello is exceptionally well done! His Kodaly Sonata for Solo Cello is done with Ma style; delicately and with sophistication. Just a different style than Starker. It's a varied album, with many interesting turns. Five stars for the Tcherepnin Suite for Solo Cello. Four stars for the album as a compilation.
I bought this CD because of The Cellist of Sarajevo. I first read about the piece a few years back. It's a piece composed to honor a cellist who sat in the middle Sniper's Alley every day and played to honor the dead. The rest of the CD is good too (how could it be not?), but The Cellist of Sarajevo will make your heart ache.
I bought this CD about seven years ago and played it so often that the tracks eventually started skipping from wear. This album is one of my favorites out of my entire collection, spanning over 500 classical albums and a few hundred more that aren't classical. Being a cellist, I am always buying music featuring the cello and especially enjoy solo cello works. This CD is very interesting because it lists composers whose work is not in the mainstream, although the Kodály is more often performed than the rest. Speaking of the Kodály cello suite, many people would say that Yo-Yo Ma plays it too cleanly, or perhaps not in the spirit that Kodály had intended. They would also invoke Janós Starker's name and declare that Mr. Starker is the better of the two. I really can't make any sort of comparison because both musicians have two very different playing styles. It's almost like comparing Beethoven to Webern. You just can't. Starker's Kodály is wonderful, absolutely! His playing is ferocious and his technique mind-boggling. Whereas Ma's is a bit more metered and not quite so rubato, but remains inspired and, in the appropriate sections, spontaneous. I may be biased because I heard Ma's version first and so it sounds like home to me, but I am also unable to argue against other artists who play this piece. Also, we have Bright Sheng's Seven Tunes Heard in China which is played fantastically. Looking at the sheet music, it would be hard to imagine what this piece sounds like, but Ma truly made it come to life. The solo version of Mark O'Connor's Appalachia Waltz is very pure sounding, like a drive through the countryside on a cloudless brisk winter morning. And then the other two works by David Wilde and Alexander Tcherepnin I constantly forget what they sound like, but that fault is mine: By the time I get to the Kodály and listen to that piece I've forgotten all else! To summarize, this album is worth buying. The works are non-traditional, however they don't strain the ears and are inspiring to listen to. Yo-Yo Ma always makes me pick up my cello and play better than I did before.