Yo-Yo Ma SIx Evolutions Bach Cello SuitesYo-Yo Ma – Six Evolutions

Bach: Cello Suites

Sony, 2018

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This is Yo-Yo Ma’s third recording of Bach’s Cello Suites after the one he made when he was in his late twenties and the one, entitled Inspired by Bach, recorded in 1996-7. Apart from testifying Ma’s familiarity with Bach throughout his life, there is a question that a third recording inevitably poses: what is the reason for such abundance?

In the booklet notes, Ma answers explaining that, while the first recording «captured my deep gratitude for a new lease on life», the second documented the «process of immersion and creation», and finally the third was intended for «people seeking equilibrium and solace at a moment of unprecedented change».

“Equilibrium” and “solace” are precisely the main features of this recording, so that the difficult harmony between intention and realization is perfectly achieved. After two previous albums, the idea of presenting these works to the audience as a sample of the performer’s skill is overcome. I am not implying that the earlier recordings where less inspired than this one, or that this one is less generous and committed, but that, to a certain extent, to it would be superfluous to prove something like that (again). We all know Ma’s virtuosity, and therefore what is interesting above all in this new recording is the expression of “something new” which originates from those qualities.

That “something new” happens thanks to the deep communication which is in progress here. Ma is a skilful, expressive performer, but his energy is not directed to a flamboyant execution of Bach’s Cello Suites. His idea is to invite to meditation, with the comfort of Bach’s straightforward music.

This music is extremely eloquent, especially in the long phrases that Ma articulates to the last note with indefectible accuracy, but also being careful not to interrupt the discourse – i. e. the musical flow. The impression is in fact that of constant progression. Moreover, differently from other performances where slowing down the tempi is detrimental to the result, in this case they too contribute to confirm the general idea of inspection.

There is a sense of order and rigour, where “rigour” is a positive factor, but these are “mechanical” elements that need something more personal to be enjoyable. In fact, Ma’s luminous and airy sound enhances the colouristic possibilities of the Suites and lucidity and concentration evidently guide his unfailing interpretative insight. Feelings and emotions are always readily expressed and Ma’s inner vision appears in all its clarity. In this way, the Cello Suites have all the elements they need to be delightful and they deliver Ma’s message of tranquillity without possibility of misunderstanding.

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