Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the most famous and well-loved cellist in the world. He was born in Paris in 1955; his family moved to the U.S. when he was seven. He played for President Kennedy that year. He played at Carnegie Hall for the first time when he was 16. He’s won 18 Grammys, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
For this special episode of Song Exploder, Yo-Yo Ma talks about the Prelude to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G Major. He discusses learning, performing, and recording the piece across 58 years of his life.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
You're, listening to song exploder, where musicians take apart their songs and piece by piece tell the story of how they were made. My name is Rishi case your way song exploder is brought to you by progressive. Are you thinking more about how to tighten up your budget these days? Drivers who save by switching you progressive
save over seven hundred dollars on average and customers can qualify for an average of six discounts on they sign up a little off your rate. Each month goes a long way get a quote today: at progressive dot com, progressive casualty, insurance cover
an affiliates national annual average insurance savings by new customer survey who saved with progressive between June two thousand and twenty and may two thousand and twenty one potential savings, will vary discounts and are not available in all states in situations.
This episode is sponsored by indeed, indeed, makes it easy to hire great talent, and you can do it all in one place, which is why
more than three million businesses worldwide use. Indeed, to hire great talent fast.
start, hiring now, with a seventy five dollars, sponsor job credit to upgrade your job post at indeed dot com, slash song exploder. This offer is valid through March thirty, first good at indeed dot com, slash song exploder, to claim your seventy five dollar credit before March thirty, first, indeed, dot com, slash song, exploder terms
conditions apply need to hire you need. Indeed, my name's is YO,
Billy came into my life when I was four years old
It was literally the first piece of music. I learned. I think I've performed the prelude hundred times, maybe more and fifty eight years later, I'm still learning from it. Yo Yo is perhaps the most famous and well
show us in the world who was born in Paris in nineteen. Fifty five, the family moved to the US when he was seventy three played for President Kennedy that year he played at Carnegie Hall for the first time when he was sixteen he's one hundred and eighteen Grammys and he was awarded the presidential.
It'll have freedom for this special episode of song exploder. The last episode of this year, Yo Yo Ma, is going to breakdown this piece which he didn't create, but he's performed so many times. It's the prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach's cello suite number one in G major, it's one of the most famous pieces of music written for the cello Yo Yo Ma first recorded the Bach cello suites in nineteen eighty three at age, twenty seven he recorded them again in nineteen ninety eight and now
age, sixty two he's recorded them for what he says might be. The last time it's for an album called six evolutions, Bach Cello Suites Yo Yo. My spoke to me about what's changed over the years about the way he approaches this piece of music, but first a little history for that.
I turn to Arthur Eric sibling, who wrote an award winning book on the history of box, cello, sweets, mine,
Eric siblings and I'm the author of the cello sweets, J S back Pablo castles and the search for a Barrack masterpiece. The date that
traditionally used to refer to the composition of the cello suites of seventeen twenty, but the reality is that that's a guesstimate, because box original manuscript went missing.
it's one of the many mysteries that surrounds us: colossal, music in early consent,
great. There wasn't a lot of music written for solo cello. It was very much a background instrument, sort plodding in the background, like a unadventurous baseline for them,
for sulphur to ride solo music for the cello was super radical at the time back died in seventeen, fifty he'd been a successful composer, but not massively famous during his own lifetime meals. Respect
in many circles, essentially musical circles in our musicians musician. He was
made any plans to preserve his own work. It wasn't until decades after his death that his music started to become popular, and so many
because of Canon didn't see the light of day for a long time and one of the pieces of music that took
longest to see the light of day was the cello suites,
covered one day in eighteen. Ninety by the cellist, Pablo Casals, he was only thirteen years old. He found a secondhand copy of the cello suites in a bookstore in Barcelona. He bought the music
took it home and immediately started to tackle it, and this is something that wasn't easy because, unlike tell us today, he didn't have
umpteen recordings of the cello suites. He didn't have teachers who can show him how to play it. He had nothing, but these
notes on paper and the way Bach wrote, notes on paper wasn't the way say Beethoven
Many later composers wrote music. Mainly he left out a lot of instructions or suggestions of the dynamics you play it loud or soft, hair, etc. So it was in some ways are very much up to the performer, the music's a bit like getting
test men that makes a fun and exciting it's like there's no original, there's only cover versions of the cello sweets now cause how's became the greatest chance
most of his time. So he went a long way towards popularizing this music in nineteen. Thirty, six public assaults recorded the cellist.
the first time anyone had ever recorded them
and when I entered the Da Gama, I played this for him. I was wondering: do you remember the first time you heard this recording? I grew up with this recording. This was for channel
This was the exemplar of saying okay about sweets. These are they. What I get from listening to, that is a sculptural approach. You know you can hear him sort of tapping his fingers onto the fingerboard years or that it's very
ha very physical and he's carving out notes, and- and this is what I grew up with
in her decent in years. So it's really incredible to have a chance to to hear it on who introduced this piece of music
my father, he loved Ba. He was in Paris during the Second World WAR and they had blackout, nights no lights and he played violin. So during the day he would learn. The Ba Sonatas and Partida is often violent by heart and then at night, because you can't do anything else, he played the music, so he started playing.
the cello and this music. When you were four years old, you must have had to play like a quarter sized cello, I had a sixteenth sized Joel. Oh that's, really cute and
so in Paris. There was no,
chair that was low enough.
So my first lesson took place at the violin dealers place. I sat on three telephone books. That's the stick
so how does a four year old kid start play both sweet
it sounds hard, but if you actually think of it, the beginning
the freak out,
the strings and put one finger down.
and then again open string. That's a pattern that anybody can learn so that's day, one
out of forty two measures so the next day you use two fingers. That's
they too and so on and so forth. So it's actually quite simple, so I had
Early start, and by the time
the clear for the first time. I do
are you been playing them for twenty four years out of play. The first version that you recorded of this in nineteen. Eighty three: has it sound to you now.
very good. Cello playing the notes are very event. You know everything is just very measured. Very competent and yeah good cellist feels like a backhanded compliment a little bit.
Well, you know good play, but I train do forensic musical analysis. Ok,
It is evident, say what
Person know what do they care about the person?
cares about having a nice sound. This person likes to make things, look good right, but this music,
It starts your imagination going where's. He taken.
And then I see well there's this stopped in the Middle EAST. Has thy person thought about that great interruption? Does that person here
The pedal point, that's in their I'd say, may be simply monopoly a little bit, but not something that his front and centre space a grey. Let's get this over with it. Stop no silence knows how let's go.
So you get someone's priorities when you listen, you always get someone's priorities. Few know what you know the instrument. It is
really wonderful to be able to say. Oh okay, this person cares about this cares less about that and you get some
value system, this music, the Strip,
Turkey is totally clear. So in all
to bring this to life. You actually have to breathe life into it and that pause. It's something totally violently.
Neutral. It screams out it saying something: happened account to play the same spot. The moment where there's that break in your new recording that, in the twenty eight inversion
What is your friends sick analysis? Tell you about the person is recorded that
there's more attention to changing landscape.
less emphasis on, say, let's make
A beautiful, sound and there's different kinds of
texture, has greater fragility, there's more attention to the bits of landscape. That is quite look at the check that out. So what does all this mean?
like a great book that you read several times during your life. Each time you
read it the same book.
Certainly get very, very different material from the sea
story says. Oh, I didn't see that if I didn't notice that before what is that so there's isn't
there's, no question that life experience as you experience, loss and love and tragedy. You are slightly changed and
As a musician, you make your living from being sensitized
to these changes and digest them and make sure that you are always giving your full self.
To whatever you're doing, which means that any experience that you've had has to be somehow revealed in the process of making music, and I think that almost forces you to make yourself vulnerable to whatever is there to be vulnerable to, because that actually is your strength.
I'm not trying to prove anything other than this is the best I can do. I make mistakes, but
It's like that vulnerability to say you know, I I'm not perfect.
The reason I want to record this perhaps for the last time is that I feel this is what I can contribute.
This is the best I can do for the music. That's written for my instrument. Now. Here's Yo Yo Ma's,
Two thousand and eighteen recording of the prelude from cello suite number one in G major by Johann Sebastian Bach in its entirety,
visit song, exploder dot net to learn more about Yo Yo Ma and the Bach cello suites you'll find a linked
I am strongly music and linked to buy
Eric Siblings Book, the cello suites Js Bach Publica souls and the search for a baroque masterpiece. Song exploder is sponsored by Dave's killer, bread actually love Dave's killer bread, but they gave me a script reads: oh period, his attention, shoppers we now have taste in the bread aisle
Dave's killer, bread, that's right and organic bread, that's no longer a sedative for your taste, buds, Dave's killer. Bread is on a mission to make the most of the loaf
to rid the world of Gmos, heifer, close corn syrup and artificial ingredients and plant the seeds of good and all that they make killer, taste killer, texture, always organic Dave's killer, bread, bread, amplified thanks to square space for sponsoring the show scarce bases in all. In one platform that lets you build a beautiful website for your business or your art or your banned. If you want to sell stuff, they ve got a commerce templates. If you want to make a blog may give you buttons see your audience can share your posts on social media and you can have multiple contributors seeking work on your site together, checkout square space, dot com for a free trial. When you re the launch go to square space dot com, slash explode her to save ten percent off your first purchase of
website or domain. My thanks to a few people who helped with notes on this episode: Alison, Macadam, Julie, Shapiro, David Weinberg, Hounds Oxman and christian current production assistance by next song. Carlos
my creates original illustrations for every episode of Song Exploiter, which you can see on the song, is put her website or Instagram song exploded,
As a proud member of Radio Tokyo from PR acts, a collective of fiercely independent pod casts, you can learn about all of our shows at radio, Tokyo
you can also find song exploder on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at song exploder. My name is Rishi case your way until next year.
thanks for listening Radio, Tempe.
There's a brand new show joining radio Tokyo called or products every week, Hist
friends, Leah Wright, Rigueur and Kelly Carter Jackson are going to dive deep into the cultural significance of the Oprah Winfrey Show, and you might know, Kelly Carter.
Jackson, because she's the host of another radio Toby a show this day an esoteric political history on overdone, makes the two friends are gonna talk about. Why Oprah matters to culture and how Oprah made so much of the culture from diets to book clubs to celebrity interviews to make overs
in all her spin offs. If you love oprah- or you just want to learn more about her, you have to check out Oprah Deming's the study of the queen of Talk wednesdays starting March Thirtieth, listen at radio Tobia, DOT Fm or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-27.