Stories » What's so essential about Yo-Yo Ma? / WRTI

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What's so essential about Yo-Yo Ma? / WRTI

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Ever since Leonard Bernstein introduced him to televeision audiences as a 7-year-old prodigy, cellist Yo-Yo Ma has captured the public's imagination over a 50-plus year career. From concert stage appearances, to Sesame Street, to American Presidential inaugurations, Yo-Yo Ma is a shining presence everywhere. Our WRTI: Philadelphia album of the week showcases why.

The Essential Yo-Yo Ma, a double-CD set compiled and released in 2005 by Sony Classical, highlights some of the widely disparate musical explorations that Yo-Yo Ma has brought to the world.  

Ma's cello playing sings and dances in the haunting sound world of American Appalachian music, with fiddler and mandolinist Mark O'Connor, and bass-player Edgar Meyer. Vocalist Allison Krauss's pure soprano is complemented by Ma's spare, lyrical style in Meyer's arrangement of the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts."

Ma's performances with the Silk Road Ensemble brings us the intersection of East and West: a popular Italian Renaissance song, which would have traveled East along the Silk Road, and traditional Chinese and Indian music, which would have travelled West, bring us an understanding of how cultures sonically collide.

Ma's musical message of global ambassadorship, in playing that is soulful yet never heavy-handed, is beautifully displayed in our Album of the Week. It reminds us why Yo-Yo Ma will always remain essential.