Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone

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Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone. Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra with Gilda Butta, piano. (Sony Classical, 93456)

The Dvorák Album. Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104; Klid (Silent Woods) for cello and orchestra; Slavonic Dance in E minor, Op. 72, No. 2; Humoresque in Gl. minor, Op. 101, No. 7; and "Songs My Mother Taught Me," from Gypsy Melodies, Op. 55, No. 4. Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Itzhak Perlman, violin. The New York Philharmonic with Kurt Masur; the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Seiji Ozawa. (Sony Classical, 92858)

A Mixed Bag

Yo-Yo Ma saddles up with a spaghetti-Western composer and pays homage to Dvorák

IS THE PRESENT RASH of classical crossover recordings among great performers inspired by the spirit of the old pioneers or the new astronauts? Of these musical explorers, none has ventured further into alien territory than cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and his two most recent CDs again prove his versatility, even though one of them is hardly worthy of his artistry. Still, both display his ability to identify with every style and bring the same seriousness and single-minded dedication to whatever he plays.

For the Ennio Morricone disc, the celebrated Italian composerwhose film work has run the gamut from the classic spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to the endearing Cinema Paradiso to the epic crime film The Untouchablesassembled five suites from his most famous movie scores, reorchestrated them for this project, and added a cello part.

The composer also conducts the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra.

Though Ma's virtuosity and warm, vibrant, expressive tone shed a glow over the material, its origin as less-than-top-rank film music cannot be disguised: predominantly slow, calm, mournful, with improvisatory repeated melodies floating above and weaving through static, simple tonal harmonies, it lacks contrast, character, and originality. …