Yo-Yo Ma: Appassionato. Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Isaac Stem, violin; John Williams, Emanuel Ax, Kathryn Scott, piano. (Sony Classical 88697-02668-2)
Are our great performers running out of repertoire? First Joshua Bell raids the vocal literature, now Yo-Yo Ma has raided his own discography, picking out 12 of his favorite short pieces and movements of longer works, and adding three he never recorded before. The result is a singular selection, ranging far and wide in time (from Baroque to the present), space (the Americas, Europe, and Asia), and style (from classical to folk and film music). Most of the pieces are slow (several are slow movements of concertos), many are transcriptions, and very few are as passionate as the title implies. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if Ma and his respective partners are deliberately injecting an artificial note of passion.
The album's chief interest lies in the overview it affords of Ma's incredible versatility and adventurousness, his eager embrace of every cultural and ethnic tradition, and his infinite ability to identify with them. …