Yo-Yo Ma: Songs of Comfort and Hope

The Strad Issue: March 2021

Description: Gorgeously played album of serene favourites from a masterful duo

Musicians: Yo-Yo Ma (cello) Kathryn Stott (piano)

Works: Music by Rachmaninoff, Dvořák, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Korngold, Bloch, Sdraulig, Parra, Arlen and Poulenc

Catalogue number: SONY CLASSICAL 19439822372

Songs of Comfort and Hope

Back in April 2020, with most of the world in lockdown, Yo-Yo Ma started posting videos of himself playing short pieces in his home, hoping to bring comfort in the way he knew best. From his spontaneous project has grown this release with long-term recital partner Kathryn Stott – here are two seasoned musicians with nothing to prove, just communicating their love of the music in a totally relaxed manner.

A peaceful, reflective mood encompasses the entire disc. All 21 tracks are songs (‘little time capsules of emotion’, Stott and Ma call them in the booklet), many in evocatively reimagined versions. They range from traditional English (Scarborough Fair, in an imaginative arrangement by Stephen Hough), Irish (The Last Rose of Summer seen through Britten’s eyes) or American (O Shenandoah), through art songs like Bloch’s Jewish Song and Rachmaninoff’s Zdes’ khorosho to popular favourites Moscow Nights, Gracias a la Vida and We’ll Meet Again.

This disc is a joy from start to finish, enhanced by radiant recorded sound, but for me Mariettas Lied from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, with Ma’s exquisite playing in the high registers almost unbearably moving, and Poulenc’s Les chemins de l’amour, with its ecstatic portamentos up to the highest reaches, shone particularly brightly.

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