What do you get if one of classical music’s most beloved performers teams up with one of today’s most popular composers? It really is a no brainer, as Azul (the title means blue in Spanish) combines the collective imagination of composer Osvaldo Golijov and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and premiered on 4 August 2006, this finest cello concerto so far this century originated during the composer’s experiences in the Middle East around the summer of 2000.
Golijov was born in Argentina to Eastern European Jews and educated in Israel before moving to the United States. His search for a truly global music perfectly resonated with the philosophies of Yo-Yo Ma, whose never-ending thirst for multi-cultural expressions is inspired by a vision that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaborations and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world. Golijov’s music is predictably allusive, simultaneously invoking the baroque past and futuristic electronic music. It brings together musical influences from a period when Christians, Jews, and Arabs lived in peaceful coexistence, “with music flowing from three cultural streams into one.” Four connected movements, “Paz Sulfurica” (Sulfuric Peace), “Silencio,” “Transit,” and “Yrushalem” (Jerusalem) include imagery from Pablo Neruda’s poem “The Heights of Macchu Picchu.” Golijov rewrote the work one year after the premiere, but it still took the recording industry the better part of a decade before finally releasing a recording in 2016.
Osvaldo Golijov: Azul