About Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma (born October 7, 1955) is an Chinese American cellist, virtuoso, and orchestral composer. He has received multiple Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Ma is regarded by some as the most famous cellist of the modern age.
Yo-Yo Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world, his recital and chamber music activities, and his work with the Silk Road Project, for which he serves as Artistic Director.
One of Mr. Ma’s goals is the exploration of music as a means of communication and as a vehicle for the migrations of ideas across a range of cultures throughout the world. Expanding upon this interest, in 1998, Mr. Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.
The Silk Road Ensemble
The Silk Road Ensemble is not a fixed group of musicians, but rather a loose collective of as many as 59 musicians, composers, arrangers, visual artists and storytellers from varies Eurasian cultures interesting in maintaining the authenticity of their own cultural heritage and, at the same time, exchanging ideas across cultures.
The Ensemble has regularly commissioned new works from across a broad musical spectrum, including works by Zhao Jiping and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, and is known for its series of interdisciplinary festivals and residencies presented in North America, Europe, and Asia.
They have performed in many locations along the historic Silk Road*, including Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
The Ensemble uses various instruments from the Silk Road region, including a pipa, a Chinese short-necked plucked lute; a duduk, an Armenian double reed woodwind; a Shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute; and a morin khuur, a Mongolian horse head fiddle; among many others.
* At its height from the second century BCE until the 14th century, the Silk Road was a vast network of trade routes that connected China to the Mediterranean through Greater Iran. For centuries ideas, objects, and people traveled along the Silk Road, making it one of the most fluid and broad arenas of exchange the world has known and a major conduit of culture and civilization. The name Silk Road Project serves as a metaphor of the cultural exchange of ideas envisioned by the project.
2. ▪ Artists 3. ▪ Silk Road Project -------------------- Yo-Yo Ma (Traditional Chinese: 馬友友; Simplified Chinese: 马友友; Pinyin: Mǎ Yǒuyǒu) (b. October 7, 1955) is a American cellist and winner of multiple Grammy Awards.
Occupation(s) Cellist, composer, pedagogue
Instrument(s) Piano, viola, violin, violoncello
Years active fl. ca. 1961-present
Label(s) CBS, RCA, Sony
acts Silk Road Ensemble
Davydov 1712 Stradivarius
Domenico Montagnana 1733
Luis and Clark
Childhood and early career:
Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents and had a musical upbringing. His mother, Marina Lu, was a singer, and his father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma, was a conductor and composer. His family moved to New York when he was seven years old.
Ma began studying violin, and later viola, before taking up the cello in 1960 at age four. The child prodigy began performing before audiences at age five. At eight years old, he appeared on American television in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. By fifteen years of age, Ma had graduated from high school and appeared as a soloist with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra in a performance of the Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations.
Ma studied at the Juilliard School of Music with Leonard Rose, and attended Columbia University, before enrolling at Harvard University, but began questioning whether he should continue his studies until, in the 1970s, Pablo Casals' performances inspired him.
However, even before that time he had steadily gained fame and had performed with most of the world's major orchestras. His recordings and performances of the Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suites (which he has recorded twice: in 1983 and again in 1998, the latter part of his "Inspired By Bach" video project) are particularly acclaimed, and he has also played a good deal of chamber music, often with the pianist Emanuel Ax with whom he has a close friendship back from their days together at the Juilliard in New York.
He received his bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1976. In 1991, he received an honorary doctorate from Harvard.
Later life and career:
Ma married his long-time girlfriend Jill Hornor in 1977 and had two children, Nicholas and Emily. They currently reside in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ma's elder sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, who was also born in Paris, is a violinist married to Michael Dadap, a New York guitarist. Together they currently run the Children's Orchestra Society in Manhasset, Long Island, New York.
Ma currently plays with his own Silk Road Ensemble, which has the goal of bringing together musicians from diverse countries all of which are historically linked via the Silk Road, and records on the Sony Classical label.
Ma's primary performance instrument is the Domenico Montagnana 1733 cello built in Venice and nicknamed Petunia. This cello, more than 270 years old and valued at US $2.5 million, was lost in the fall of 1999 when Ma accidentally left the instrument in a taxicab in New York City. It was later recovered undamaged. Another of Ma's celli, the Davidov Stradivarius, was previously owned by Jacqueline du Pré who passed it to him upon her death, though its current owner remains anonymous. Though Du Pré previously voiced her frustration with the "unpredictability" of this cello, Ma attributed the comment to du Pré's impassioned style of playing, adding that the Stradivarius cello must be "coaxed" by the player. It was until recently set up in a Baroque manner, since Ma exclusively played Baroque music on it. He also owns a cello made of carbon fibre by the Luis and Clark company of Boston.
In 1997 he was featured on John Williams' soundtrack to the Hollywood film, Seven Years in Tibet. In 2000, he was heard on the soundtrack of the blockbuster foreign film hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He collaborated with Williams again on the original score for 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha.
Yo-Yo Ma has also worked with world renowned Italian composer Ennio Morricone and has recorded Morricone's compositions of the Dollars Trilogy including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Ma has been referred to as “omnivorous” by critics, and possesses a more eclectic repertoire than is typical for classical musicians. A sampling of his versatility in addition to numerous recordings of the standard classical repertoire would include his recordings of Baroque pieces using period instruments, American bluegrass music; traditional Chinese melodies including the soundtrack to the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; the tangos of Argentinian composer Ástor Piazzolla; an eclectic and unusual collaboration with Bobby McFerrin (where Ma admits to being terrified of the improvisation McFerrin pushes him toward); as well as the music of modern minimalist Philip Glass in such works as the 2002 piece, Naqoyqatsi. In 2006, a soundtrack album was released of the music from the 2005 film, Memoirs of a Geisha.
Ma has appeared in an episode of the animated children's television series, Arthur (though D.W. kept calling him "Yo Ma-Ma"), as well as on The West Wing (episode "Noël", in which he performed the prelude to the Bach Cello Suite No.1 at a Christmas dinner at the White House), Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. In The Simpsons episode "Missionary: Impossible," Ma runs after Homer Simpson along with many other frequent guests of PBS. He also starred in the visual accompaniment to his recordings of the Bach: Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello In the Seinfeld episode "The Ticket" Kramer says Yo-Yo Ma out of nowhere.
Ma has also been seen with Apple Computer and former Pixar CEO Steve Jobs. Ma is often invited to press events for Jobs's companies, and has performed on stage during event keynote presentations.
Ma was the first performer on September 11, 2002, at the site of the World Trade Center, while the first of the names of the dead were read in remembrance on the first anniversary of the attack on the WTC. He played the Sarabande movement from Bach's Suite in C minor (#5).
He performed a special arrangement of Sting's "Fragile" with Sting and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ma was named Peace Ambassador by United Nations then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in January 2006.
Ma was a guest on the Not My Job segment of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! on April 7, 2007, where he won for listener Thad Moore.
Awards and recognitions:
Dan David Prize
Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance:
1996 Brahms/Beethoven/Mozart: Clarinet Trios (Sony 57499)
1993 Brahms: Sonatas for Cello & Piano (Sony 48191)
1992 Brahms: Piano Quartets Op. 25, Op. 26) (Sony 45846)
1987 Beethoven: Cello and Piano Sonata No. 4 in C & Variations (CBS 42121)
1986 Brahms: Cello and Piano Sonatas in E Minor Op. 38, and F Op. 99 (RCA 17022)
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance:
1998 Yo-Yo Ma Premieres - Danielpour, Kirchner, Rouse (Sony Classical 66299)
1995 The New York Album - Works of Albert, Bartók & Bloch (Sony 57961)
1993 Prokofiev: Sinfonia Concertante/Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme (Sony 48382)
1990 Barber: Cello Concerto, Op. 22/Britten: Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68 (CBS 44900)
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance:
1985 Bach: The Unaccompanied Cello Suites (CBS 37867)
Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition:
1995 The New York Album, Stephen Albert: Cello Concerto (Sony 57961)
Grammy Award for Best Classical Album:
1998 Yo-Yo Ma Premieres - Danielpour, Kirchner, Rouse (Sony Classical 66299)
Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album:
2004 Obrigado Brazil (Sony 89935)
2001 Appalachian Journey (Sony 66782)
1999 Soul of the Tango - The Music of Ástor Piazzolla (Sony Classical 63122)
Glenn Gould Prize
Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) (honoris causa)
2005 Princeton University