Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites

Yo-Yo Ma

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Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites Review

by James Manheim

Those fearing that Yo-Yo Ma might have grown rusty in his crossover experiments, which have ranged as far afield as bluegrass music, can rest easy: these are superb recordings of Bach's Suites for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007-1012, enlivened not only by Ma's two previous recordings of the suites but by a stint of performing Bach in a variety of venues worldwide. Ma has an ability to connect with audiences that was second nature to the great virtuosi of the past but that is shared by few artists today, and it comes through even in the medium of the digital CD. One key to his way with Bach's suites is how he can keep the dance elements, the implied counterpoint, and the often jagged melody lines in perfect balance, all without betraying a trace of sweat. Sample the final gigue of the Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008, and note the constantly shifting ways in which Ma pushes the jig rhythm without ever losing its basic pulse. This is just one example of Ma's knack for embodying several levels of musical meaning in a gorgeous flow of lyrical effusion. One could go on, but the simplest way to sum up is to address newcomers to classical music: this is what it's all about.

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