CD reviews: Lorde, Tyler Farr, The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma

Silkroad Ensemble
The Star-Ledger

By Ronni Reich

A Playlist Without Borders
The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma (Sony Masterworks)

Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble, who regularly blend Eastern and Western music, make the most of contemporary cultural intersections on a rich recording of new compositions. The ensemble plays with unflagging virtuosity and fervor and includes members of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and pipa player Wu Man, among others. Vijay Iyer’s "Playlist for an Extreme Occasion" stands out as a colorful, imaginative suite that brings together propulsive and pulsating rhythms, soulful melodies and dark, epic interludes that complement the aggressive sound of the sheng, a Chinese reed instrument. Colin Jacobsen’s vibrant, intricate "Atashgah," takes its name from an ancient temple and features the husky wail of the Persian stringed kamancheh. In "Saidi Swing," composer Shane Shanahan intriguingly varies a traditional Arabic rhythm so that its strong, syncopated beats soften and become fluid and then return to their original force. Ma plays with characteristic authority, warmth and nuance in Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s Allegretto from Partita, op. 31 for Cello Solo, an elegiac tune that weaves Turkish folk music with neoclassicism.