Late last year, in honor of Yo-Yo Ma's 30th anniversary on Sony, the label re-mastered every single album the renowned cellist has recorded and packaged them in a velvet-lined box that includes 90 CDs and a 312-page hardbound book of photos, essays and liner notes. Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box is this week’s Full Rotation.
From a purely packaging standpoint, the set is a marvel--a lavish repudiation of the death of the physical CD. And aside from all of the collectable goodies, there's the music. In recent years, Ma's recording priorities have shifted largely to film soundtracks, folk and world music. This set goes back to his classic recordings of concertos by Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann; Elgar, Saint-Saëns, and Dvorak.
There's also oodles of chamber music by Brahms, Mozart, Schumann and other composers. Not only do the Bach Cello Suites turn up but so do the composer’s many sonatas for viola da gamba and keyboard. There are numerous other gems including transcriptions of Fritz Kreisler’s bonbons for violin, the dazzling caprices of Paganini and some gorgeous takes on Japanese folk tunes. Two bonus discs include, among other things, John Williams' Air and Simple Gifts, written for the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Given the economic downturn and the demise of record stores, this may be a questionable time to be releasing a boxed set. Still, Ma is one of the few living classical artists whose career justifies a set of this magnitude. If cost is not a consideration, go for it.
Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box [Box Set]