Whether as a soloist or chamber musician, Yo-Yo Ma has a pronounced and eclectic musical taste. He performs a varied repertoire bringing together the most famous works for cello, may they be contemporary compositions or traditional oriental music.
Yo-Yo Ma started learning the cello with his father at the age of four. He gave his first concert in Paris two years late. His family soon moved to the United States where Yo-Yo Ma took lessons with Janos Scholz and Leonard Rose at the Julliard School. A year later the public discovered him on American television, he was just seven years old. Starting his carrer, he then participated in two seasons of concerts titled “Isaac Stern and his friends”, held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington. After the end of this series of concerts he began to closely collaborate with the Polish pianist Emmanuel Ax. At the ends of the 1980s Isaac Stern joined the duo, extending the Stern-Istomin-Rose trio.
Yo-Yo Ma has also performed alongside Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Kayhan Kalhor, Ton Koopman, Bobby McFerrin, Edgar Meyer, Mark Morris, Mark O’Connor, Kathryn Stott, Wu Man, Wu Tong, and David Zinman. He has always used music as a means of communication between genres and cultures. Yo-Yo Ma has studied traditional Chinese Music and instruments, as well as the music of the Bochiman people in Africa. The Silk Road Orchestra project was born out of this research. It aims to study the cultural and intellectual traditions that exist along the Silk Road.
Yo-Yo Ma has brought many contemporary works to life, including Claude Bolling’s Suite for Cello & Jazz Piano (1984), Toru Takemitsu’s Between Tides for Violin, Cello and Piano (1993), André Prévin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano (1995) and Eliott Carter’s Cello Concerto (2001). His discography includes more than seventy-five albums, with fifteen or so having received a Grammy Award. He plays on two instruments, a 1773 Montagnana made in Venice and a 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius, which used to belong to Jacqueline du Pré.
Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Yo-Yo Ma
1962: First appearance on American television playing in front of, amongst others, J. F. Kennedy, Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals and Benny Goodman
1978: Awarded the Avery Fischer Prize, for his outstanding contribution to the music world
1991: Played the complete Cello Suites by Bach for the Carnegie Hall centenary
2000: Founded the Silk Road Orchestra ensemble
2006: Became part of the UN "Messengers of Peace"
2007: Performed Cello Concerto No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovitch with the Orchestre National de France, under the baton of Kurt Masur