- Méditation (from opera "Thäis")
- Sonata, for Violin & Piano No. 1 in A major, Op. 13
- Havanaise, in E major for violin & piano, Op. 83
- Sonata for cello & piano in A major (arr. from "Sonata for violin & piano")
It's no wonder that Yo-Yo Ma has such a natural feeling for the French style -- he was born in Paris and spent his first seven years there -- and by the same token, it's no surprise that this disc of French music is one of the cellist's best recordings in years. His phrasing is elegant and his sound is warm (though not overheated), and his partner, the fleet-fingered pianist Kathryn Stott, plays with equal refinement. Their program is built around two major works, both originally composed for the violin. Gabriel Fauré's Sonata in A Major is a favorite of virtuoso violinists, though its essence is lyrical. Ma never compromises the music's airiness, brightening his tone and playing with breathtaking security in the cello's upper register (listen to the beginning of the scherzo, for example). César Franck's Sonata in A Major is the more overtly expressive of the two, and while Ma and Stott could hardly be accused of being dispassionate, they project the music's clarity and structure while also reveling in its emotional richness. The disc also includes an old-fashioned showpiece, Camille Saint-Saëns' Havanaise, and a tried-and-true chestnut from the Parisian salon, Jules Massenet's Meditation from Thaïs -- both works also intended for violin. Ma's rapid fingerwork in the main section of the Havanaise is a wonder, of course, though his sensuous playing of the opening melody is even more memorable. And if some may think the Massenet too sweet, Ma invests it with such unaffected expression that the music takes on a moving and dreamy dignity. Highly recommended.