Having traveled the globe, appeared with the world’s leading orchestras and achieved virtually anything a solo cellist could dream of, Yo-Yo Ma has sought a range of second acts. One is the Silk Road Ensemble, a group of international musicians that Ma founded to explore various musical styles and traditions and mingle them with his own.
Now, that once-experimental ensemble is a recognized force in its own right. On Sunday, the group appeared at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, presented by Washington Performing Arts, as part of Silk Road’s 15th-anniversary tour. How time flies.
Some pieces were more successful than others. Kojiro Umezaki’s “Side In Side Out,” an attempt to encompass the entire Silk Road project, played more like an easy-listening pastiche, with a brief interlude performed on Japanese instruments. In all of the works played by the full group, the Western instruments tended to be far louder than their Eastern counterparts, a problem that even careful amplification could not overcome. Far more successful was Giovanni Sollima’s “Taranta Project,” which combined a string quartet with a percussionist. Here, the two sides meshed perfectly, each allowing the other to fully unfold.
Another highlight was Sandeep Das and Kayhan Kalhor’s “Jugalbandi.” The two musicians come from different backgrounds — India and Iran, respectively — but their tabla, a pair of Indian drums, and kamancheh, a stringed Iranian instrument, complemented each other, with a violin and cello completing the sound. The piece begins quietly but builds on a repeated motif to a wild, satisfying conclusion.
Closing the concert was Edward Perez’s “The Latina 6/8 Suite,” a romp through Latin music, driven by the gaita — a Galician bagpipe. Throughout, Ma remained a quiet presence in the middle of the action. It was time for others to shine.
Pohl is a freelance writer. His review comes courtesy of http://ionarts.org/ .