With SIMPLY BAROQUE, Yo-Yo Ma continues in his line of projects that broaden his repertoire and have immense appeal to listeners. When the Amsterdam Concertgebouw asked him in 1993 to give a concert series with his choice of repertoire and local ensemble, he chose J. S. Bach and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Ma's 1712 Stradivarius was de-modernized--gut strings instead of metal, baroque bow, wider bridge--to make it more the instrument it was in Bach's time, and with the help of Jaap ter Linden and Ton Koopman, he learned how to play with a period-instrument ensemble. The resulting concerts were considered such a success that the performers took their show on the road and later made this recording.
The program begins with a group of Bach transcriptions leading to the popular Air "on the G string" from the 3rd Orchestral Suite. Ma's "Erbarme dich" sweetly embodies the aria's plaintive air, and Koopman's ensemble backs him as if he were a vocal soloist. In all of the Bach works, Ma presents a nimble technique and a warm tone well-suited to the material. In the Boccherini Concertos that follow, the performances are similarly appropriate, elegant and technically impeccable.