Concert review: Cellist Ma, Silk Road connect the multicultural dots

Yo-Yo Ma, Kayhan Kalhor, Cristina Pato, Silkroad Ensemble
Chicago Tribune

By John von Rhein

Friday's program, a mix of new and previously heard repertory, was something of a homecoming for Ma, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's creative consultant, and his international all-stars, who had spent an entire season, 2006-07, in residence in Chicago, where they collaborated with a host of local arts and educational institutions. The crowd greeted them like old friends.


Mostly, however, the concert highlighted the spectacular virtuosity of individual players.

None of them commanded attention quite as boldly as Silk Road's single female member, Cristina Pato, doubling on gaita (Galician bagpipes) and piano in "The Latina 6/8 Suite," a frisky quadripartite piece that links original music by Edward Perez with traditional folk material from Spain and Latin America, all of it in 6/8 time.

I don't know which was more fun to watch and hear – the piercing wails of Pato's pipes, her dancing or the easy fluidity with which she and her colleagues traded the intricate rhythms they produced on their diverse instruments, or sometimes just clapped out.

The duet that best epitomized Silk Road's aesthetic of creative brotherhood was "Jugalbandi," a quasi-improvised joint effort by two remarkable musicians, Sandeep Das on tabla (Indian drums) and Kayhan Kalhor on kamancheh (Persian spike fiddle). Kalhor's haunting melodies moved in sinuous directions that evoked the ancient trade routes from which the group takes its name. Das likened his extrasensory rapport with Kalhor to what Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen enjoyed in a golden era of Chicago Bulls history: musical 3-pointers indeed.

Read the full review here.