New Impossibilities

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New Impossibilities. Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, cond. (Sony Classical, 8869710319 28)

The title of Yo-Yo Ma's most recent Silk Road adventure comes from Mark Twain's description of "that astonishing city, Chicago," where the cellist's celebrated world-music ensemble was recorded in concert during a year-long residency, in partnership with the Chicago Symphony and 70 other cultural institutions.

As in two previous Silk Road Ensemble recordings, When Strangers Meet and Beyond the Horizon, the program is a heady mix of music from many lands, including Iran, Armenia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Korea, India, and Turkey.

The 17 players and their often esoteric instruments come from every corner of the Eastern and Western world.

The longest and most affecting piece is "The Silent City" by Kayhan Kalhor, Iranian composer and kamanche (spike fiddle) virtuoso. Played by Kalhor with violinists Jonathan Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, cellist Ma, bassist DaXun Zhang, and percussionist Mark Suter, it is both an elegy for an exterminated Iraqi village and a lament for all natural and man-made disasters.

The string players join Oriental winds and percussion in the Lebanese-born Rabih AbouKhalil's exuberant "Arabian Waltz," which fuses jazzy syncopations with his native traditions. …