About Yo-Yo Ma
Classical music has long been a breeding ground for child prodigies, but few wunderkinds have harnessed innate genius to become a cultural icon like cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Born in 1955 to Chinese parents then living in Paris, he began playing his instrument at age four, and three years later he moved with his family to the U.S. In 1983, he made his first recording of Bach’s Cello Suites, which catapulted him to classical stardom, and the masterpiece remains central to Ma’s aesthetic core. As he told Apple Music, “I always felt that this was my music. It’s in my skin, it’s in my bones, it’s in my memory.” In the decades since, he’s remained a towering figure as both soloist and collaborator, and he’s consistently operated as a cultural ambassador, using his celebrity to expose classical music to new audiences. His mastery of the standard repertoire has remained his primary focus, whether in his long-running partnership with pianist Emanuel Ax or as an in-demand guest soloist, but he’s also harnessed his celebrity to reach new listeners, working with artists as diverse as Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, and Ennio Morricone. In 1996 he partnered on the album Appalachia Waltz with bluegrass musicians Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer—with whom he formed Goat Rodeo Sessions in 2011, applying his virtuosity to bluegrass music—and in 1998 he launched his Silk Road Project, enfolding traditional music from the famed trade route with modern classical pieces and commissioning new work from promising composers. In 2018 he reaffirmed his love for Bach, recording the Cello Suites for the third time and playing all six works in a single performance at sites around the world.
BORNOctober 7, 1955