Kod‡ly, Wilde, Tcherepnin, Sheng & OÕconnor

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COMPOSERS: Kodaly,Sheng & O’connor,Tcherepnin,Wilde
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Solo
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Yo-Yo Ma (cello)
Following his Bach project, Yo-Yo Ma now delves deeper into the riches of the unaccompanied cello repertoire for this new disc, Solo. It brings together a gritty and appealing selection of 20th-century works that draw on traditional musical languages – including Hungarian, Chinese and Appalachian.


With a gift for characterising the most diverse of styles, Ma gets to the living core of these far-flung pieces, giving vividly conceived and flamboyant interpretations. Two works in particular stand out. Kodály’s complex and forward-looking Sonata of 1915, infused with the restless energy of Hungarian folk melodies, is given a wilful and bountifully expressive reading. The long-breathed Adagio is exquisite, Ma sinking deep into a profoundly thoughtful, almost spiritual reading.

Bright Sheng’s astonishingly vibrant Seven Tunes Heard in China (1995) appropriates Qinghai folk tunes in a similar way. Ma’s gloriously limpid tone emphasises their sensuality, from the heart-stopping stillness of the intriguingly named ‘Little Cabbage’ to the ethereal plucked glissandi of ‘The Drunken Fisherman’, lifted straight from the sound-world of ancient Chinese music.


In explaining his choice of pieces, Ma conjures up the allusion of a Zen rock garden, in which no single vantage point provides a complete view of the stones. He sees each of these pieces, balancing innovation and tradition, as a response to the rock garden’s challenge. It’s an interesting point, but rather a red herring: the sheer collective power of these pieces is justification enough for their inclusion.