Performance Friday, April 15, 2016 | 8 PM

Yo-Yo Ma
Emanuel Ax

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The five sonatas that Beethoven wrote for cello and piano are the earliest works of significance that pair the two instruments and offer insights into the development of his musical language. The first two sonatas are experimental in tone, while the joyous third is a virtuosic tour de force. The final two sonatas explore spiritual realms the composer would only touch in his late piano sonatas and quartets.The incomparable Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax perform the complete sonatas in this one remarkable recital.


  • Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
  • Emanuel Ax, Piano


  • BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 5, No. 1
  • BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 5, No. 2
  • BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 69
  • BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1
  • BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 102, No. 2

  • Encore:
  • BRAHMS Adagio from Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two and one-half hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Yo-Yo Ma

    Yo-Yo Ma's multifaceted 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. His discography of more than 90 albums (including 18 Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests.

    Mr. Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world and his recital and chamber-music activities. He draws inspiration from a wide circle of collaborators, creating programs with such artists as Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Kayhan Kalhor, Ton Koopman, Yu Long, Bobby McFerrin, Edgar Meyer, Mark Morris, Riccardo Muti, Mark O'Connor, Cristina Pato, Kathryn Stott, Chris Thile, Michael Tilson Thomas, Wu Man, Wu Tong, Damian Woetzel, and David Zinman. Each of these collaborations is fueled by the artists' interactions, often extending the boundaries of a particular genre. One of Mr. Ma's goals is the exploration of music as a means of communication and as a vehicle for the migration of ideas across a range of cultures throughout the world.

    Expanding upon this interest, Mr. Ma established Silkroad in 1998, 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. Through his work with Silkroad, as throughout his career, Mr. Ma seeks to expand the cello repertoire, frequently performing lesser-known music of the 20th century and commissions of new concertos and recital pieces. He has premiered works by a diverse group of composers, among them Stephen Albert, Elliott Carter, Chen Yi, Richard Danielpour, Osvaldo Golijov, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Peter Lieberson, Zhao Lin, Christopher Rouse, Giovanni Sollima, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun, John Williams, and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.

    Mr. Ma is strongly committed to educational programs that not only bring young audiences into contact with music, but also allow them to participate in its creation. While touring, he takes time whenever possible to conduct master classes as well as more informal programs for students-musicians and non-musicians alike.

    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. He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher, Glenn Gould, and Dan David prizes; the National Medal of the Arts; the Léonie Sonning and Polar music prizes; the World Economic Forum's Crystal Award; the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and the Vilcek Prize in Contemporary Music. In 2011, Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree. Appointed a Culture Connect Ambassador by the US Department of State in 2002, Mr. Ma has met, trained, and mentored thousands of students worldwide in countries that include Lithuania, Korea, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, and China. Mr. Ma serves as a UN Messenger of Peace and as a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of his inauguration in 2009.

    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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  • Emanuel Ax

    Born in Poland, Emanuel Ax captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. In 1975, he won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists, followed four years later by the coveted Avery Fisher Prize.

    Three prominent duo collaborations will be carried through Mr. Ax's current season. Beginning with the release of sonatas by Fauré and R. Strauss on the Deutsche Grammophon label, Mr. Ax will partner with longtime friend and colleague Itzhak Perlman for concerts in Kansas City, Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and La Jolla, as well as at Ravinia. A return visit to Japan will be followed by concerts in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Tel Aviv, and Amsterdam. As an annual guest with the New York Philharmonic, he will perform Brahms with Alan Gilbert in addition to return visits to orchestras in Houston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, as well as duo recitals in Philadelphia and New York with violinist Pamela Frank. Longstanding partner Yo-Yo Ma will join him in Norfolk, Washington, and New York, where they will program the complete Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano. Solo recitals in Tokyo, Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Boston culminate at Carnegie Hall in May as part of the Hall's 125th anniversary.

    The latter half of Mr. Ax's 2014-2015 season featured two projects, the first being his curated two-week Celebrate the Piano festival with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in which multiple pianists gave a variety of performances to explore the many facets of the instrument. The second was a European tour with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin that began at Carnegie Hall. He also returned to the orchestras of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Montreal, and Ottawa. In Europe, he performed with the Berliner Philharmoniker, followed by a tour to Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, and London in performances of Schubert's Winterreise with Simon Keenlyside, as well as appearances in Amsterdam and Paris with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Bernard Haitink. Other European orchestras with which he performed include the London Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, and the national orchestras of Toulouse and Lyon.

    An exclusive Sony Classical recording artist since 1987, recent releases include Mendelssohn trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss's Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart, and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff with Yefim Bronfman. Mr. Ax has received Grammy Awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn's piano sonatas. He has also made a series of Grammy-winning recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano with Yo-Yo Ma. His other recordings include the concertos of Liszt and Schoenberg, three solo Brahms albums, an album of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and the premiere recording of John Adams's Century Rolls with The Cleveland Orchestra for Nonesuch. In the 2004-2005 season, Mr. Ax contributed to an International Emmy Award-winning BBC documentary to commemorate the Holocaust, which aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2013, his recording Variations received an ECHO Klassik award.

    In recent years, Mr. Ax has turned his attention toward the music of 20th-century composers, premiering works by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner. Mr. Ax is also devoted to chamber music, and has worked regularly with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Edgar Meyer, Peter Serkin, Jaime Laredo, and the late Isaac Stern.

    Mr. Ax resides in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki. They have two children together, Joseph and Sarah. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds honorary doctorates of music from Yale and Columbia universities. For more information, visit

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BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 5, No. 2 (Rondo: Allegro)
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello | Emanuel Ax, Piano
CBS Masterworks

At a Glance

Although Beethoven wrote only half as many sonatas for the cello as for the violin, they are no less central to the instrument’s repertory. String sonatas were still a novelty at the turn of the 19th century, in part because composers were still wrestling with the problem of combining the often brittle brilliance of the contemporary fortepiano with the mellower and more singing voices of the cello and violin. Beethoven’s sonatas inspired Mendelssohn, Brahms, and others to devise their own solutions later in the century.

Unlike the 10 violin sonatas, all but one of which were written between 1797 and 1803, Beethoven’s five cello sonatas are spread out over nearly two decades. The 26-year-old composer presented the two Op. 5 Sonatas as a calling card to the cello-playing Prussian monarch, King Friedrich Wilhelm II, in Berlin in 1796. The works’ understated exuberance played to Beethoven’s strengths as a pianist and to the virtuosity of the exiled French cellist Jean-Louis Duport. By 1808, the composer of the “Eroica” and “Pastoral” symphonies, the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas, and the three “Razumovsky” string quartets had become a seminal force in the Romantic movement. The tuneful A-Major Sonata of that year is one of Beethoven’s most intricately wrought pieces of chamber music, while the boldly dramatic Op. 102 Sonatas, both written in 1815, push the language of Viennese Classicism toward its limits. 
Program Notes
Please note that if you purchase stage seating, please arrive one hour before concert time. There will be no late seating.
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This performance is part of Great Artists I.