How could some of my favorite musicians go so wrong! I usually have the greatest admiration of Lorin Maazel and Yo Yo Ma, and I do give them credit for giving the world a real alternative to the hundreds of other renditions of this greatest of cello concertos. Furthermore, I think I could actually enjoy this interpretation, perverse as it seems compared with the norm; for one thing, Ma's playing is ravishingly beautiful. The orchestral ensemble is unbelievably bad, though--a stain on the Berlin Philharmonic's reputation. I am astounded that Maazel allowed its release. From the opening bars this sounds like anything but a great orchestra; and time after time, entrance after ragged entrance, the failure of the orchestra to connect with the beat destroys any drama, and most of the beauty, that this idiosyncratically slow reading might have otherwise conveyed.
For those wanting a variety of interpretations of this masterwork in their collection, it makes sense to acquire this disc in order to enjoy the artistry of Yo Yo Ma, and to see just how much an interpretation can differ from those characterized by precision and passion. The inclusion of the Dumky Trio also helps to justify buying this disc. However, if one is looking for a first, second, third recording, or fourth recording of the Cello Concerto, I direct you to Starker/Dorati Dvorak: Concerto for cello in Bm; Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Fournier/Szell Dvorák: Cello Concerto; Bruch: Dol Nidrei; Bloch: Schelomo, Rostropovich/Ozawa Dvorak: Cello Concerto; Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, or du Pré/Barenboim Dvorak: Cello Concerto; Haydn: Cello Concerto in C; Jacqueline du Pre.