The Essential Yo-Yo Ma
As if being the world's greatest living cellist weren't enough, Yo-Yo Ma is also one of the mere handful of genuine celebrities the classical music world has produced. In a recording career approaching three decades, he's put his stamp on nearly every nook and cranny of the standard cello repertoire while allowing his curiosity to lead him into a virtual world tour of crossover projects, too, each more successful than the last. With such a hit parade to choose from, it must have been daunting to select this program of his "essentials," but the results do justice to both the diversity and the consistent excellence of his work. It helps that the two discs divide neatly into a classical résumé and a crossover one. The former includes meaty excerpts from Bach, Shostakovich, Brahms, and Dvorák, as well as lighter encores such as Saint-Saëns' The Swan and Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, to name a few that show off the unsurpassed beauty of Ma's playing. The second disc, which is programmed even better for straight-through listening, draws from popular albums including the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack, Appalachian Journey, Soul of the Tango, Obrigado Brazil, and pieces by film composers John Williams and Ennio Morricone, as well as the most recent installment of the cellist's ambitious Silk Road project. It looks like a grab-bag assortment on paper, but Ma's impeccable taste and artistry tie it all together and leave you wondering where his insatiable musical appetites will lead him -- and his listeners -- next.