Some crossovers are a waste of time and talent–an opera diva crooning show tunes, for instance–but cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s collaboration with bluegrass fiddler Mark O’Connor and bassist Edgar Meyer has paid off, producing two CDs filled with sincere and charming treatments of American folk music. The first, 1996’s Appalachia Waltz (Sony Classical), lingered on Billboard’s classical chart for more than two years–the uncommon trio’s radiant performances satisfied classical fans with their technical finesse and nonclassical listeners with their zesty esprit de corps. On the brand-new Appalachian Journey Meyer and O’Connor have arranged or composed five tracks apiece, each of which balances elegance and flamboyance; on the traditional material every player uses insights from his own field to introduce convincing elaborations and transformations. Both Meyer and O’Connor have recorded with Emmylou Harris and the bluegrass supergroup Strength in Numbers; Meyer has also been a sideman on CDs by Lyle Lovett and the Indigo Girls, among others, and O’Connor, a disciple of Texas master Benny Thomasson and Stephane Grappelli, anchors the group with a tenderness and verve seldom mustered by classical violinists. Ma, though he’s newest to this genre, is the best musician of the three, playing with the same purity, soulfulness, and intensity he’s brought to, say, Bach’s cello suites or Brahms’s cello sonatas. Monday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 800-223-7114 or 312-294-3000.

Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/J. Henry Fair/Jim McGuire/Kristofferson.