Yo-Yo Ma: Six Evolutions (Bach Cello Suites) — cultured refinement

Three years ago the BBC Proms presented a series of late-night concerts devoted to Bach. In the vast quietness of the Royal Albert Hall after dusk the mind can be uniquely concentrated and no performer made a greater impression there than Yo-Yo Ma, playing all six of Bach’s solo cello suites.

These are works so central to every cellist’s repertoire that they become friends for life. Ma has described how his father taught him the First Suite bar by bar when he was four years old, with growing delight as he discovered the right space and timing to let the music breathe. Since then, he has kept returning to the Bach Suites throughout an exploratory career that has taken him on journeys along the Silk Road and across boundaries to embrace the tangos of Piazzolla and the film music of Ennio Morricone.

Those diversions are not incidental. Musical understanding can be enriched by venturing along more distant paths and absorbing influences outside the classical tradition.

Now in his 60s, Ma is offering here his third complete recording of the Bach Cello Suites. The general outline of his performances may be similar, but the years of experience tell in the way that added depth of expression can be mined while the playing seems ever more effortless.