In March, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave an impromptu performance at his local vaccination clinic in the Berkshires after receiving his second dose. Throughout the pandemic he held virtual concerts for hospitals and played pop-up shows for frontline workers from a flatbed truck with pianist Emanuel Ax. “Humans are inventive,” Ma says. “We find other ways to reach out when we can’t be physically close together.” He curated a playlist around this issue’s theme of beauty—a notion that, for him, centers on human nature and how we connect with one another and the natural world. “By playing the cello, I’m interpreting what I think, feel, and touch through my hands,” he explains. “This playlist unites all of that.” Along with a rendition of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Song without Words,” by “blazing comet” cellist Jacqueline du Pré, it includes “Gabriel’s Oboe,” by Ennio Morricone, which “makes you feel glorious—the world opens up, the sun is shining, and you’re looking at the most beautiful vista”; “Early Morning Breeze,” by Dolly Parton, who “always maintains the voice of hope and generosity”; and “Tayf (Ghost),” by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila. “It’s about the ghosts of the past,” says Ma. “It represents the courage and resilience of a people who find beauty amidst wars, bombs, and chaos.”
Listen to Yo-Yo Ma’s full playlist exclusively on Apple Music below.
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Photograph by Mark Mann, (c) 2020 Sony Music Masterworks, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. Used courtesy of Sony Music Masterworks, a division of Sony Music Entertainment.
This article originally appears in the May 2021 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, available on newsstands May 4.
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