In doing this series, sometimes it’s been hard to find information out about someone. But today I had a wealth of choices, all top notch as well. I could’ve chosen Cristobal de Morales, who died on this day and was the leading composer of Spanish masses in his day. Or I could’ve chosen Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit, who was born on this day in 1936. Instead, I decided to go with one of the world’s greatest performers, who has performed music in almost every known style. Happy Birthday Yo-Yo Ma, who turns 53 today.
Born in Paris to Chinese parents who were both musical, they moved to New York when he was only 4. Ma started on violin, then viola before switching to cello also when he was 4. A child prodigy, he began performing to audiences at 5, and performed for U.S. President John F. Kennedy aat the age of 7. The next year he performed on stage with Leonard Bernstein. He has studied at Trinity School and Juilliard School of Music in New York, Columbia University, and Harvard Univeristy.
As a player, Ma has played in almost every style. He has performed with all of the major orchestras around the world, He has also played a large range of chamber music, as well has period Baroque music, having had the 1712 Davidov Stradivarius cello, previously played by Jacqueline du Pre set up in the baroque manner. He has been featured on soundtracks of films such as Seven Years in Tibet; Crouching Tiger, Hiddin Dragon; and Memoirs of a Geisha. He has played bluegrass music, Argentine Tangos, minimalist music such as that by Philip Glass and more. His virtuosity is amazing, having recorded Paganini’s 24th Caprice for the violin on the cello. In 2006, Ma was named a United Nations Peace Ambassador by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
For the videos, I couldn’t choose just one or two, so you’ve got a Yo-Yo Ma feast. We’ll start off with something standard, with the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite number 1. Then we’ll show off his virtuosity with Paganini’s violin caprice number 24. Then some Piazzola with Libertango, followed by some improvisation with Bobby McFerin. Finally, an appearance of Yo-Yo Ma on children’s TV show, Sesame Street.