A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble perform. My DH humored my lifelong crush on this virtuoso (still as handsome and charming as ever by the way) by scoring some tickets from Craigslist since the performance had been sold out. Since we were out of town just prior to the performance, he enlisted the help of a loyal friend to do the drop-off and pick-up of the tickets from the seller--which took place in a parked car creepily enough.
I went to the concert completely oblivious as to the program content; while I've always been a fan of his interpretations of classical pieces, I had not been a faithful listener of Mr. Ma's performances with the Silk Road Ensemble, even though he had been performing with the ensemble for eight years. The only piece from the Ensemble I had heard up to that point was "The Desert Capriccio" from the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" soundtrack.
The Silk Road Ensemble performs pieces commissioned by the Silk Road Project, a not-for-profit arts and cultural organization Mr. Ma founded in 1998. The organization derives its name from the Silk Road, which per the organization's website, "refers to a series of routes that crisscrossed Eurasia from the first millennium B.C.E. through the middle of the second millennium C.E. The best known segment of the Silk Road began in the Chinese capital of Chang'an (Xian), diverged into northern and southern routes that skirted the Central Asian Taklamakan Desert, converged to cross the Iranian plateau, and ended on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean in cities like Antioch and Tyre." As such, the pieces commissioned have a strong Asian and Middle Eastern influence, using classical instruments from each that are hardly seen or heard in the Western world.
These influences came to a heady intersection with the program's opening piece, the lively and rousing "Gallop of a Thousand Horses," which showcased each performer's talent and ability right from the get-go. I have to admit that I expected the ensemble to be overshadowed by Yo-Yo Ma's performance and presence, but I was happily mistaken. Each artist more than held their own; each, clearly a master of their own instrument, yet more than able to work beautifully together to create some moving and intense performances.
I immediately hopped onto iTunes when I came home to check out the ensemble's existing recordings ("Distant Valley" is a favorite). Hopefully you'll be as intrigued as I was to find out more about this fantastic ensemble and will be quick to order tickets should they tour in a city near you.