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 Recording of the Week  Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project

When you are one of the very top performers of your instrument and you find you’ve played and recorded almost all the important repertoire written for that instrument you can do one of two things. You can carry on playing the wonderful repertoire there is whilst commissioning and performing new works written for you, or you can diversify and go down a path which hasn’t be taken before. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has always been fascinated by the different cultures and traditions he encountered on his travels and so in 1998 he definitely took the untrodden path option and formed the Silk Road Project.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the not-for-profit organization is designed to promote cultural exchange between Asia, the Middle East and the West by supporting a number of artistic, cultural and educational programmes. It has published a book, commissioned over 20 new chamber music compositions, and created educational material now used in many schools across the United States.

Silk Road Ensemble
Silk Road Ensemble

Most interesting to me is the emergence of the Silk Road Ensemble, a flexible group of musicians from all over the world, which came together under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma in 2000, and now tours the world performing a variety of programmes in Silk Road Project concerts and festivals in Europe, Asia and North America.

In recent years the ensemble have released three CDs. Using a mixture of Western and non-Western instruments they are in many ways unique in their field and have opened up many ears around the world to these diverse and wonderful sounds.

This week sees the release of a new disc following a year of collaborative events in the city of Chicago. It is a bit different from the earlier discs in that it also features the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the music is more loosely connected to the fabled Silk Road. It therefore includes a recording of Yo-Yo Ma playing the lovely cello and orchestra piece Schelomo by Jewish composer Ernst Bloch as well as an excellent performance of Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite. Lou Harrison’s Pipa Concerto (a plucked Chinese string instrument) is an excellent introduction to anyone as yet unfamiliar with far eastern instruments.

NEW - Traditions & Transformations

Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Wu Man (pipa), Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Silk Road Ensemble, Miguel Harth-Bedoya & Alan Gilbert

Music by Bloch, Prokofiev, Sharav and Lou Harrison.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

New Impossibilities

Yo-Yo Ma (cello), The Silk Road Ensemble

A wondrous fusion of Western and Eastern musical impulses and sensibilities from cellist Yo-Yo Ma, inspired by the art and culture of the historic Silk Road.

Available Format: CD

Silk Road Journeys - Beyond the Horizon

Yo-Yo Ma (cello), The Silk Road Ensemble

This CD features 15 new works - one is an ensemble improvisation. e recording includes music by two of China’s leading film composers – Zhao Jiping and Zhao Lin.

Available Format: CD

Silk Road Journeys - When Strangers Meet

Yo-Yo Ma (cello), The Silk Road Ensemble

A dramatic moment in world history, The Silk Road Project - a wide-ranging multicultural odyssey, inspired and personally guided by cellist Yo-Yo Ma - makes its recording debut.

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC