This is the sequel to Yo-Yo Ma's wildly successful Simply Baroque. Again joined by the excellent Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, with Ton Koopman conducting from the harpsichord, he plays with a baroque bow on his 1712 Stradivarius cello "reconfigured" as a baroque instrument with gut strings and no endpin and tuned a half-tone lower. This gives it a mellower, more subdued sound, though his tone, despite very sparing vibrato, retains its unique expressive warmth and purity. The program again features two Boccherini concertos and a group of Bach transcriptions for cello and orchestra by Koopman, including the Aria from the Goldberg Variations.
These are only intermittently successful and make great demands on the soloist. Ma, of course, meets the demands handily, soaring to stratospheric heights, blending into the orchestra, and weaving figurations around it. The Boccherini concertos are the core of the record, notably the famous B-flat, for which Ma and Koopman went back to the originals in search of a more authentic version than the familiar one (which was actually conflated later from several others by Grützmacher, a cellist and editor). Here, Ma has ample opportunity to display his virtuosity, his charm, and his pleasure in intimate give-and-take with the orchestra; one can almost see him smile. The result is pure delight. --Edith Eisler