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Album Review

Even when not composing music for film, John Williams tends to tie his music to fairly concrete images, as this collection of cello works attests. The inspiration for Heartwood, for example, came from a book containing photographs of trees. His Three Pieces for Solo Cello were attempts to reflect the African-American experience. In the liner notes of this CD, Williams describes the cello as groaning under the crack of the work-gang whip for Rosewood, dancing exuberantly in Pickin', and singing a lullaby in The Long Road North. Even Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, a piece that would seem to be the most traditionally "classical" in its approach, is described as containing a "hero's role" for the cello, allowing the instrument "to address the audience in the manner of a clear and direct soliloquy." This visual approach to composition helps ground even the most "modernist" passages, allowing Williams' music to remain accessible to the more casual listener while still yielding enough riches to satisfy a more demanding audience. This collection boasts some of Williams' most compelling and heartfelt writing, boosted by typically expressive performances by Yo-Yo Ma. The warmth of Ma's cello complements Williams' emotional style, particularly in the reflective Heartwood and moving Elegy. Williams proves here that more than just his theme from Star Wars deserves long life in the concert hall repertory.


Born: October 7, 1955 in Paris, France

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Yo-Yo Ma is the cello's foremost contemporary proponent; while primarily a classical performer, he has also made a number of highly successful crossover recordings. Born October 7, 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris, he began playing the cello at the age of four, later studying with Janos Scholz; in 1962, he also became the pupil of Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School, and was the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize in 1978. A Harvard graduate, Ma made his initial impact performing...
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