LIVE on WRTI 90.1: Yo-Yo Ma Plays All of J.S. Bach's Cello Suites, Sunday, May 24th at 3 PM

May 21, 2020

Leave it to Yo-Yo Ma to propose a special, live studio broadcast of all six of J.S. Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites, in memory of those lost during the pandemic, in tribute to those who are on the front lines during this struggle—and honoring the resilience of us all.

In the many years we have been friends, I have witnessed first-hand the generosity of spirit that time and again has become a spontaneous act of giving.

A Musical Memorial and Tribute: Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach's Solo Cello Suites is a very special one-time event, from the studios of WGBH in Boston. The program will broacast live on WRTI 90.1, Sunday from 3 to 5:30 PM, immediately following The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert 1 PM broadcast.

WRTI's Gregg Whiteside and cellist Yo-Yo Ma in NYC, 1997

The cello suites of Bach have always held a special place in Yo-Yo Ma’s heart. And many have been the times over the years that I have personally been able to witness just how generous the heart and spirit of the great cellist are—none more precious to me than the sunny day in Manhattan 23 years ago when we made a personal appearance together to promote one of Yo-Yo’s new recordings.

There we were, standing on a riser, ready to greet a few hundred people packed tightly together in ways we may not see again for a long time, when, gently pushing her way to the front, came a girl of about five or six years of age, carrying a quarter-size cello.

She just stood and stared up at Yo-Yo in awe, never taking her eyes off him! Immediately noticing her, he stepped down off the riser on which we were standing, squatted in front of her, and asked if he could see her instrument. She nodded, her eyes wide, as he took this tiny cello into his left hand, turned and grabbed a bow from his case, and began to play the first movement of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1!

And it sounded fantastic, too!

After all these intervening years, I cannot hear this incredible masterwork without thinking of that afternoon in New York when Yo-Yo Ma played the first movement on a quarter-size cello for a little girl who came to see him. And this Sunday, we get to hear him play all six of Bach’s cello suites, live, from 3 until 5:30 PM, at a time when he knows how much we need them.