Biography Yo-Yo Ma gave his first public recital at age 5 and by the time he was 19 was being compared with such masters as Rostropovich and Casals. One of the most sought-after cellists of our time, Mr. Ma has appeared with eminent conductors and orchestras in all the music capitals of the world. He has also earned a distinguished international reputation as an ambassador for classical music and its vital role in society. Highly acclaimed for his ensemble playing, Mr. Ma regularly performs chamber music with a wide circle of colleagues. Over the past several seasons, he has joined Emanuel Ax, Isaac Stem and Jaime Laredo for performances and recordings of the piano quartet repertoire, including works of Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Fauré, Mozart and Schumann. Mr. Ma's long-standing partnership with Emanuel Ax is one of the music world's most successful collaborations. Together they regularly perform duo recitals and made many recordings, including the complete cello sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms as well as works of Britten, Chopin, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff and Strauss, among others. During the 1995-96 season, they celebrated the 20th anniversary of their partnership with a recital tour culminating at Carnegie Hall as well as a special concert at Alice Tully Hall for PBS's "Live from Lincoln Center."
Mr. Ma recently completed a collaborative project of a different kind, creating films of Bach's Six Cello Suites that explore the relationship between Bach's music and other artistic disciplines. The first of these, featuring original choreography of Mark Morris set to the Third Cello Suite, was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in August 1995. Subsequent films are to incorporate the work of the renowned Kabuki artist Tamasaburo Bando, the Italian architect Piranesi, Boston-based garden designer Julie Moir Messervy, Olympic ice-dancing champions Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, and Canadian film director Atom Egoyan. An exclusive Sony Classical recording artist, Yo-Yo Ma is a ten-time Grammy award winner. Among his recent releases are Peter Lieberson's chamber work "King Gesar;" a disc of recent concertos by Kirchner, Rouse and Danielpour with David Zinman and the Philadelphia Orchestra; and a new work by Andre Previn, set to words by Toni Morrison, with soprano Sylvia McNair and Mr. Previn as pianist. This fall Sony Classical released "Appalachia Waltz," an album of original music recorded in Nashville with fiddle player Mark O'Connor and bassist Edgar Meyer.
Contemporary music, particularly by American composers, has for many years been an important part of Mr. Ma's repertoire. Over the past several seasons, he has premiered works by Stephen Albert, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, David Diamond, John Harbison, Lou Harrison, Leon Kirchner, Ezra Laderman, Peter Lieberson, Tod Machover, Christopher Rouse, Bright Sheng and John Williams. A very recent premiere of comtemporary music was Heaven, Earth, Mankind: Symphony 1997, celebrating the return of Hong Kong to Chinese Rule. Mr. Ma developed a very close relationship with composer Tan Dun and has recently given performances of the symphony around the world. Alongside his extensive performing and recording, Yo-Yo Ma devotes time to work with young musicians in programs such as those at Interlochen and Tanglewood. He seeks to include educational outreach activities in his regular touring schedule as well, through master classes and more informal interaction with student audiences. He is also working to develop concerts for family audiences and appeared with Emanuel Ax on Camegie Hall's family series in 1995-96
Bom in Paris in 1955 of Chinese parents, Yo-Yo Ma began his cello studies with his father at age 4. Later, he studied with Janos Scholz and in 1962 he began his studies with Leonard Rose at The Juilliard School. A graduate of Harvard University, he was accorded the special distinction of an honorary doctorate in music in 1991 by his alma mater. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize in 1978. Mr. Ma and his wife, Jill, have two children, Nicholas and Emily. He currently plays a Montagnana cello from Venice made in 1733 and a Davidoff Stradivarius made in 1712.
1986Grammy Award for Cello Concertos by Elgar and Walton 1990Grammy Award for Cello Concertos by Barber and Britten Gramophone Magazine Award for Brahms: Piano Quartets 1991Grammy Award for Brahms: Piano Quartets 1992"Top Classical Crossover Album" in Billboard Magazine for Hush (with Bobby McFerrin) 1993Grammy Award for Brahms: Cello Sonatas Grammy Award for concerted works by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev Diapason "5" Award for "Made in America" (Music by Bernstein, Kirchner, Gershwin & Ives) Award 1994Grammy Award for Bach: Suites for Unaccompanied Cello 1995Grammy Award and Diapason "5" Award for "The New York Album" (Music by Stephen Albert, Bartok and Bloch) Grammy Award for Trios by Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms (with Richard Stoltzman and Emanuel Ax 1996Diapason D'Or Award for Schubert: Trout Quintet & Arpeggione Son
Photo by Anja Tichawsky (ABOVE) -- Yo-Yo Ma gives an on-stage workshop for students from the Peabody School in Cambridge, at Jordan Hall, Oct. 93. Bobby McFerrin with Yo-Yo Ma
The Cello So what is a cello anyways? Most people have heard of one before, but based on my own experiences, people don't know exactly which member of the orchestra it is. I remember carrying my cello to a concert once and someone asked me if what I was carrying was a bass. There has even been a time when someone asked if it was a tuba! So, here I present you with a good summary of what the cello is: Cello or Violoncello, large, low-pitched musical instrument of the violin family, held between the performer's knees. It is really a bass violin played in an upright position. It has four strings tuned C G d a (C = two C's below middle C; a = the A below middle C). Its range extends over more than four octaves. It is mostly used in string-quartets and orchestras. The Tail spike is used to balance the Cello when being played; it can be adjusted to any size, and retracts back into the Cello when not in use. The tuning pegs at the Pegbox are used for tuning the Cello, but for real accuracy, the fine tuners are used. The f hole is used to increase the resonance of the Cellos body, thus making the sound produced louder. The 4 Cello strings are thicker that those of the Violin, and are better suited that way to give the Cello its unique sound. The Cello is played by rubbing the bow string over the Cello strings, both in left and right directions.
The earliest surviving Cellos are two from the 1560s by the Italian violinmaker Andrea Amati. Until the late 18th century the Cello was only a supporting instrument, playing bass lines and adding fullness to musical textures. During the baroque era unaccompanied Cello suites were composed (1720?) by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, as were Cello concertos by Antonio Vivaldi and Luigi Boccherini, the Italian composers. In the 19th century, works for the Cello included concertos by Johannes Brahms and the Czech composer Antonín Dvorák. In the 20th century, composers such as the Russians Sergey Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich further explored its solo capabilities. The most prominent 20th-century cellist was the Spanish-born Pablo Casals. Other leading soloists are the Russian-born Gregor Piatigorsky and Mstislav Rostropovich, and of course Yo-Yo Ma. Each cellist has made his own special contributions to the world of music.