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Yo-Yo Ma: Elgar Cello Concerto, First Movement

A classical cellist could be intimidating. Yo-Yo Ma, however seems like a regular guy. But, of course, somebody who performs at this level is special. This is from the bio at his website:

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 sought out a traditional liberal arts education to expand upon his conservatory training, graduating from Harvard University in 1976.

Mr. Ma has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the Sonning Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010). Mr. Ma serves as a UN Messenger of Peace and as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.

He clearly has a sense of fun, judging by Sesame Street appearances. He also isn’t afraid to experiment. Indeed, there is as much non-classical as the high brow stuff on Ma at YouTube. Here is a bit more on Ma from AllMusic:

He has won numerous Grammy awards, recording such diverse music as Brazilian bossa nova, Argentine tango, American roots and bluegrass, and the soundtrack for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

That isn’t to say that Ma is not primarily a cellist. This is Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme performed in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonia on Christmas Day 1990. The comments say that it was presented by the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonia (now St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra) with Yuri Temirkanov conducting. I feel classy even writing that.

On a lighter note, here he plays Hush Little Baby with Bobby McFerrin.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.