The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
Ravinia Pavilion; Fri 20
In March, string quartet Brooklyn Rider managed to infiltrate and stir up significant buzz at Austin’s rock-oriented South By Southwest festival. Sadly, the foursome isn’t slated for Ravinia this summer, but violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen and violist Nicholas Cords of the genre-leaping group are heading up to Highland Park with Yo-Yo Ma as part of the Silk Road Ensemble. As its name implies, the instrumentalist and composer collective is an axis of myriad cultures including, for its current U.S. tour, Galician, Indian, Chinese, Latin American, Persian and Italian.
Ma and composer Osvaldo Golijov have just missed each other as Chicago Symphony employees, the former as the CSO’s new creative consultant and the latter as its outgoing composer in residence, but on Friday 20 they meet for “Air to Air,” the Argentine’s compelling concoction of 18th-century Sardinian songs and the indigenous music of Mexico, among others.
Given the ensemble’s unique cross-continental instrumentation—including gaita (the oft-fringed Galician bagpipe), shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute used as a weapon by sword-deprived samurai), pipa (a Chinese lute) and sheng (a miniature Chinese reed organ for the mouth)—all seven pieces on the program were written or re-orchestrated for the group. This is no Putumayo-style world-music-lite, however, as evidenced by the inclusion of composer Sandeep Das’s turbulent conjuring of Shiva’s creation of the world with his tabla.
Like dropping gospel matron Mavis Staples into the Lollapalooza lineup or, say, a young NYC quartet onto a SXSW stage, adding Silk Road to the Ravinia roster holds the promise of something unexpected.