Yo-Yo Ma’s Fabulous Fantasy

Yo-Yo Ma, The Silk Road Ensemble, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya

New Impossibilities (Sony Classical, 2007)

Sparked by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma‘s Silk Road Project, New Impossibilities: Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble is the culminating recording of the project’s year-long residency in "Silk Road Chicago." Under "Silk Road Chicago," The Silk Road Project in collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Office of Tourism offered the city a whole host of educational events, films, dance events, workshops and concerts to celebrate the cross cultural learning and promote innovation through the arts. The concert recordings teaming Yo-Yo Ma, The Silk Road Ensemble and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Miguel Harth-Bedoya on New Impossibilities reflect the city’s total embrace of "Silk Road Chicago" and its splendid adventure.

Opening New Impossibilities is the striking "Arabian Waltz," that is a piquant mix of the seductive lure and dangerous journey of the desert, played out by the Persian kamancheh played by Kayhan Kalhor and pipa played by Yang Wei and the driving rhythms of Sandeep Das’s quick paced tabla.

The fantastic fantasy of Osvaldo Golijov’s "Night of the Flying Horses" is at once soft liquid exoticism and then the whipping wind over a treacherous landscape. Moving from Lullaby to Doina and finally to Gallop are Kojior Umeziki on shakuhachi, Wu Tong on sheng, Jonathan Gandelsman on violin, Nicholas Cords on viola, Eric Jacobsen on cello, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Dxuan Zhang on bass, Joseph Gramely on snare drum, Shane Shanahan on caxixi and Mark Suter on cajon. The woven fabric created by the cross-cultural mix of instruments and composition dazzles and delights.

My personal favorite is "The Silent City." This twenty-two minute track was written as an elegy for the town of Halabja, Iraq which was destroyed in 1988. The plaintive strings set down by kamancheh, violin, viola, cello and bass together with bodhran and ghavel create a haunting journey seen through the eyes of composer and kamancheh musician Kayhan Kalhor. It’s almost possible to taste the melancholy expressed, but Kalhor tinges the composition with enough bittersweet hope to make the listener want more.

Fans of the Silk Road Project won’t want to miss other gems on Impossibilities like "Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets" composed by Zhou Long or Hai-Hai Huang’s "Galloping Horses" or the spectacular "Shristi" by tabla master and composer Sandeep Das. One of the true highlights is "Vocussion" that will enthrall listeners with its sheer complexity and percussive mastery.

Impossibilities is splendidly sumptuous proof of the possible, an intersection where composers and musicians meet and can travel the same road together. Listeners will welcome the wild ride.


Buy New Impossibilities.

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.