Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Yo-Yo Ma Celebrates Different Cultures

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Yo-Yo Ma Celebrates Different Cultures

Article excerpt

Despite having every reason to brag, Yo-Yo Ma does everything but.

There are few names in any art form that are equally recognizable. His accomplishments seem almost unnecessary to mention: Everybody knows Yo-Yo Ma, and whether we've seen him at a presidential inauguration or on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," the world's most famous cellist is tattooed on our cultural consciousness.

With a soft voice, he scatters words and ideas with abandon. (When asked during a recent interview to repeat the end of a sentence he had just uttered, he replied, "I have no idea what I just said.")

While Mr. Ma ("I'm Yo-Yo," he said when addressed with a courtesy title) has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and elsewhere in the area, his cross-cultural Silk Road Ensemble makes its Pittsburgh debut Wednesday night at Heinz Hall. Strolling between various musical traditions, from Iran to India, the 16- member ensemble features tabla, kamancheh, pipa, shakuhachi, percussion, cellos, violin and other instruments familiar and foreign.

"We have friendship, celebration, spirituality and romance all in our program, but from different points of view," Mr. Ma said.

Combining classical music with other genres while not cheapening either is not a foregone conclusion. Mr. Ma, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., has found success doing so not only with the Silk Road Ensemble, but also with other projects exploring tango, American folk music and more.

The Harvard graduate draws on his liberal arts background in "everything that I've done since college." That education, he said, gave him "the tools to be able to look at any culture and to be able to figure out how to get inside it, and to understand it from the inside and how it functions organically, which is very close to what it takes to get inside an art form. …

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