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Yo-Yo Ma (b1955)


Yo-Yo Ma is undoubtedly one of the busiest and most well known of modern cellists, with hundreds of engagements entailing upwards of 150,000 miles of travel annually. His high profile is in part due to his close relationship with political administrations in Washington: he performed for Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower in his childhood, Reagan in adult life and has been appointed to office and honoured by President Obama. He also has a readiness to interface with popular culture, through commercials (including for the Apple Corporation), appearances on television shows (such as children’s programme Sesame Street or drama The West Wing) and numerous performances on film including John Williams’s soundtrack for Seven Years in Tibet (2007). Ma has a genuinely eclectic repertory, ranging from all eras of Western art music to bluegrass, Chinese music and the tango compositions of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla. Add to this a friendly and unpretentious personality which has won him considerable affection and his immense popularity is no surprise. This can be gauged by an occurrence at a masterclass in Salt Lake City, when Ma agreed that his hitherto nameless 1733 Montagnana cello should henceforth carry a student’s suggestion of ‘Petunia’. Another of Ma’s instruments is the famous ‘Davidov’ Stradivarius formerly played by Jacqueline du Pré.

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