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Yo-Yo Ma

Latest Release : Beethoven for Three: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” and Op. 1, No. 3

Beethoven for Three: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” and Op. 1, No. 3
Released 11 Nov 2022

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Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search […]
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Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, coming together with colleagues for chamber music or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, Mr. Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination.

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 Silkroad, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create meaningful change at the intersections of the arts, education, and business.  Under his artistic direction, Silkroad presents performances by the acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble and develops new music, cultural partnerships, education programs, and cross-disciplinary collaborations. More than 80 new musical and multimedia works have been commissioned for the Silk Road Ensemble from composers and arrangers around the world. Silkroad’s ongoing affiliation with Harvard University has made it possible to develop programs such as the Arts and Passion-Driven Learning Institute for educators and teaching artists, held in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a new Cultural Entrepreneurship initiative in partnership with Harvard Business School.

As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, Mr. Ma is partnering with Maestro Riccardo Muti to provide collaborative musical leadership and guidance on innovative program development for The Negaunee Music Institute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and for Chicago Symphony artistic initiatives. Mr. Ma’s work focuses on the transformative power music can have in individuals’ lives, and on increasing the number and variety of opportunities audiences have to experience music in their communities.  In March 2016, he was appointed Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of their expansive initiatives honoring the centenary of JFK’s birth and to encourage the idea of creative citizenship.

Mr. Ma is also widely recognized for his strong commitment to educational programs that bring the world into the classroom and the classroom into the world. While touring, he takes time whenever possible to conduct master classes as well as more informal programs for students – musicians and non-musicians alike. He has also reached young audiences through appearances on “Arthur,” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street.”

Mr. Ma’s discography of over 100 albums (including 18 Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests.  He has made several successful recordings that defy categorization, among them “Appalachia Waltz” and “Appalachian Journey” with Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer, and two Grammy-winning tributes to the music of Brazil, “Obrigado Brazil” and “Obrigado Brazil – Live in Concert.” Mr. Ma’s recent recordings include: “The Goat Rodeo Sessions,” with Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile and Stuart Duncan, which received the 2013 Grammy for Best Folk Album, and “Songs from the Arc of Life,” with pianist Kathryn Stott.  His most recent release, “Sing Me Home,” recorded with the Silk Road Ensemble, was released in April 2016 as the companion album to documentary film The Music of Strangers.  Created by Oscar-winning producer Morgan Neville, the film follows the Ensemble’s more than 50 musicians, composers, visual artists and storytellers as they explore the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution.  Mr. Ma remains one of the best-selling recording artists in the classical field.  All of his recent albums have quickly entered the Billboard chart of classical best sellers, remaining in the Top 15 for extended periods, often with as many as four titles simultaneously on the list.

Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and soon came with his family to New York, where he spent most of his formative years. Later, his principal teacher was Leonard Rose at The Juilliard School. He has received numerous awards, among them the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the National Medal of Arts (2001), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010).  In 2011, Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree. He is currently serving as a UN Messenger of Peace and as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities.  Most recently, Mr. Ma has joined the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees.   He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.

Mr. Ma and his wife have two children. He plays two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.

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Press Release

EMANUEL AX, LEONIDAS KAVAKOS, AND YO-YO MA Release Second Album in Beethoven for Three Series Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” and Op. 1, No. 3

) Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma release their new recording, Beethoven for Three: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” and Op. 1, No. 3, on Sony Classical, available everywhere now.   Like the first Beethoven for Three release—Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5—this recording challenges the traditional boundary between chamber and orchestral repertoire to offer the […]
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) Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma release their new recording, Beethoven for Three: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” and Op. 1, No. 3, on Sony Classical, available everywhere now.


Like the first Beethoven for Three release—Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5—this recording challenges the traditional boundary between chamber and orchestral repertoire to offer the listener two very different sides of the composer using the same three voices. In the C Minor piano trio, we hear Beethoven’s brilliant exploration of three instruments’ essential expressive capabilities; in the “Pastorale,” lovingly reimagined for trio by Shai Wosner, the piano, violin, and cello transcend their own identities to represent the endless creativity of the natural world, becoming, in turn, bird, brook, and storm. Like the first Beethoven for Three release, this recording continues a musical conversation between three friends while offering audiences a rare and intimate look at Beethoven’s evolution as a composer.

The Beethoven for Three series features three artists in pursuit of the essential elements of Beethoven’s musical language, presenting Beethoven’s most iconic symphonies in intimate arrangements that maintain the power and immediacy of his orchestral works. By performing the symphonies on three instruments alongside the composer’s canonical piano trios, the artists present a wealth of insight about both Beethoven and his earliest audiences.

“It used to be completely normal that the first release of a symphony would not be the full score,” says Ax, “because to hear an orchestra was a very rare event. You wouldn’t get that music until dozens of years later; you would get the arrangement for one piano, four hands, or trio, or quartet, and that’s how you got to know the music. So we’re going back to the roots.”


Beyond its historical precedent, Beethoven for Three also presents a new opportunity for performers and listeners to reappraise the boundaries between musical genres, and reenvision how musicians can collaborate freely and creatively.


“We all feel that being able to participate in a symphony is such a wonderful thing to do,” says Ma. “One of the things that has separated people since recording began is the categories that we put people in, in which chamber musicians, orchestra players, people who play concertos, people who do transcriptions, people who compose, people who conduct, are all viewed as separate categories with no overlap. That siloed thinking discourages actual creativity and collaboration between people. And so we feel that one of the things that is really important to do today is to actually go back to the first principles of music, the simple interaction between friends who want to do something together.”

The trio’s newest recording contrasts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale”—appearing in a specially commissioned arrangement by Shai Wosner—with his Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3.  Heard together, these two pieces showcase vastly different sides of Beethoven through the shared language of the piano trio. Written in Vienna when Beethoven was 25 years old, with his first symphony still five years away, Op. 1, No. 3 captures his transition from a virtuoso pianist to a composer in his own right. In contrast, Symphony No. 6 features Beethoven in his prime, making space for something more lyrical and cinematic between the obsessiveness of Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7.


“Like the fifth and seventh symphonies, the sixth symphony is made up of small motifs which, through repetition, become longer lines of music, a form of minimalism, in a way,” says Kavakos. “But unlike the fifth and seventh symphonies—which are not only physically challenging, but musically and psychologically, with an almost obsessive repetition of motifs—the sixth symphony uses this repetition to create a lighter, more elevated mood. It just goes on forever, but you never get tired of it.”

Beethoven for Three has its origins in the 2021 Tanglewood Music Festival, where Ax, Kavakos, and Ma first played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in trio format. The performance was an instant success, and the first release in the series, Beethoven for Three: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5, was recorded soon after. Gramophone highlighted their recording of Symphony No. 5, noting that “the performance by Ax, Kavakos and Ma is not just aptly intense—the opening Allegro con brio is as involving as any orchestral performance I’ve heard—but also incredibly sensitive to the music’s crucial juxtapositions, as one can hear in the Andante con moto, where they so deftly balance delicacy and heroic swagger—note the vulnerability in Kavakos’s tone at 1’42”—in a way that I find deeply moving.”


Ax, Kavakos, and Ma first performed together as a trio at the 2014 Tanglewood Festival, playing a program of Brahms’s piano trios. Their first recording effort, Brahms: The Piano Trios, was released in 2017 to universal critical acclaim; Gramophone observed that “These performances get straight to the heart of Brahms’s music, relishing its pull of opposites,” while Limelight noted, “There’s no doubting the ardour that these players bring to the music, which is delivered with an eye to creating broad, sweeping phrases … there are plenty of opportunities to swoon along the way.”

Sony Music Masterworks comprises Masterworks, Sony Classical, Milan Records, XXIM Records, and Masterworks Broadway imprints. For email updates and information please visit


Beethoven for Three: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” and Op. 1, No. 3
Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma

Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, “Pastorale”

  1. I. Allegro ma non troppo, “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arriving in the countryside”
  2. II. Andante molto mosso, “Scene by the brook”
  3. III. Allegro, “Joyful gathering of countryfolk”
  4. IV. Allegro, “The storm”
  5. V. Allegretto, “Shepherd’s song. Thanksgiving after the storm”


Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 1, No. 3    

  1. I. Allegro con brio
  2. II. Andante cantabile con variazioni
  3. III. Menuetto. Quasi allegro
  4. IV. Finale. Prestissimo



January 24              Davis, CA – Jackson Hall

January 25              Berkeley, CA – Zellerbach Hall

January 27              Santa Barbara, CA – Granada Theater

January 28              Los Angeles, CA – Walt Disney Hall

March 18                 Philadelphia, PA – Verizon Hall

March 19                 Newark, NJ – NJPAC

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