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  • Alex Ross interviews Yo-Yo about "New Impossibilities"

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  • Yo-Yo Ma, Silk Road, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brings Us 'New Impossibilities'

    Always eager to break down barriers and inspire new platforms for learning, cellist Yo-Yo Ma wanted to see what would happen if the cultural institutions of one city focused all of their energies on a single event. Working with the city of Chicago, together they embarked on the yearlong city-wide celebration SILK ROAD CHICAGO. Inspired by the art and culture of the historic Silk Road, SILK ROAD CHICAGO ran from June 2006 to June 2007 and was created in partnership with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Office of Tourism, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute of Chicago. From concerts and exhibitions to staged readings, film, dance and other art forms, there was a myriad of ways to trace the Silk Road through Chicago.

    The culmination and one of the highlights of the celebration was a series of concerts Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble performed April 9–21. Joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on April 12, 13 and 17, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble gave the world premiere of Ambush from Ten Sides which is based on a traditional Chinese melody. On April 15 and 20, Ma and the virtuoso artists from around the world that comprise the Silk Road Ensemble performed traditional and new works that are influenced by the rich sounds of the Silk Road.

    From these concerts, on July 31, Sony Classical will release a new CD of selected works from these once-in-a-lifetime performances. Preview this release here.

    You can purchase this new release at Borders, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony Music Store, and on iTunes!

  • New Impossibilities, a new live recording by Sony Classical featuring multiple-Grammy-Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Silk Road Ensemble, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, will be released on July 31.  The recording is the result of “Silk Road Chicago,” the first city-wide year-long residency spearheaded by the Silk Road Project, the organization founded by Ma as a catalyst for promoting innovation and learning through cross-cultural and interdisciplinary partnerships.  The Silk Road Project partnered with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Office of Tourism from June 2006 to June 2007 in a program of exhibitions, concerts, workshops, readings, films, dance performances and educational events.  The new recording captures some of the concert highlights of “Silk Road Chicago.”

    On April 15 and 20, 2007, Ma and the Ensemble interpreted tradition-based and/or newly composed works inspired by the historic splendors of the Silk Road. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra joined them on April 12, 13 and 17 for the world premiere of Ambush From Ten Sides for Pipa, Sheng, Guitar, Cello and Orchestra, an orchestral suite which depicts the fierce battle between the kingdoms of Han and Chu that led to the founding of the Han Dynasty.  The title New Impossibilities refers to Mark Twain’s description in Life on the Mississippi of the bracing energy and wide-open embrace of diversity that has always characterized the great city of Chicago and its people.  It also reflects the Silk Road Project’s vision of connecting the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe.

    Later this season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will also release a disc on their new in-house label CSO Resound that showcases the symphonic repertoire highlighted as part of Silk Road Chicago.  The CD, which was recorded live during performances in April at Symphony Center, features Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble in collaboration with the CSO under the direction of Miguel Harth-Bedoya on works by composers such as Bloch, Sharav, Harrison, and Prokofiev.

    When Yo-Yo Ma founded the Silk Road Project in 1998, even he could not have imagined its eventual impact. Like the ancient pan-Asian trade route for which it was named, the Project links the East and West. But rather than spices, carpets and rich fabrics, the Silk Road Project showcases the equally intricate beauty of several centuries-worth of single and intersecting arts traditions. Meanwhile, the Silk Road Ensemble has explored folkloric and classical music styles from Iran, Armenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, India and Turkey and new Silk Road Project-commissioned works by emerging composers from the above and other nations. Through nearly a decade of warmly inclusive adventures, Ma and his team of legendary virtuosi have charmed audiences of all ages and backgrounds, demystifying unfamiliar and sometimes enigmatic cultures and creating opportunities for positive face-to-face encounters during an era that sorely needs them.

    The present disc commences with Rabih Abou-Khalil’s Arabian Waltz, a sexy, poly-rhythmic piece that gives the Ensemble’s string players, including a Persian kamancheh spike fiddle and a plucked Chinese pipa, plus a Japanese shakuhachi flute, a vigorous workout. Next is the Night of the Flying Horses.  Composed by Osvaldo Golijov, the three movements are redolent of Eastern European and Roma (Gypsy) themes and feature the shakuhachi and sheng, a Chinese mouth organ. Hai-Hai Huang’s Galloping Horses is a merrily witty sonic picture of Mongolian wild steeds on the move, with solos for pipa and double bass. Track four, the muscularly atonal, impressionistic Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets, was composed by Chinese-born Zhou Long, who is now based in the USA. Kayhan Kalhor is a renowned exponent of the kamancheh and a noted composer. His The Silent City, scored for strings and percussion, is an elegy for the town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan, which was destroyed in 1988.  Shristi, a work by famed tabla (Indian tuned drum) master Sandeep Das, depicts the Hindu god Shiva Nataraj and his drum in the act of creating the universe. On the world premiere of Ambush From Ten Sides, a Chinese traditional melody is arranged by Li Cang Sang and China Magpie into six sweepingly cinematic visions of war and its aftermath. The album concludes with Vocussion, a Silk Road audience favorite in which the five Ensemble members who created it explode into vocal percussion effects.

    The Silk Road Project is featured on Sony Classical’s Web site at www.sonybmgmasterworks.com and on Yo-Yo Ma’s artist domain at www.Yo-YoMa.com. Additional information -- such as background on the performers and their instruments, plus concert schedules -- can be found on the Silk Road Project Web site at  www.silkroadproject.org.

    An Intimate Journey through the music of Yo-Yo Ma, the popular podcast series featuring interviews with him discussing his life and career, continues with exclusive interviews with members of the Silk Road Ensemble as they discuss the recording of New Impossibilities.  The podcast can be accessed via the podcast section of Mr. Ma’s official website, http://www.yo-yoma.com.

  • NPR.org has the Yo-Yo Ma story from Weekend Edition 1/14 available for streaming from their website.  You can listen now!

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