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Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos: Bio

Yo-Yo Ma's multi-faceted 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.

Yo-Yo 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, Kayhan Kalhor, Ton Koopman, Yu Long, Edgar Meyer, Mark Morris, Cristina Pato, Kathryn Stott, Chris Thile, Michael Tilson Thomas, Wu Man, Wu Tong, and Damian Woetzel.  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. To that end, he has taken time to immerse himself in subjects as diverse as native Chinese music with its distinctive instruments and the music of the Kalahari bush people in Africa.

Expanding upon this interest, in 1998, Mr. Ma established Silkroad, 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. Silkroad's ongoing affiliation with Harvard University has made it possible to develop programs such as the Arts and Passion-Driven Learning Institute for educators and teaching artists, held in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a new Cultural Entrepreneurship initiative in partnership with Harvard Business School. More than 80 new musical and multimedia works have been commissioned for the Silk Road Ensemble from composers and arrangers around the world.

Through his work with Silkroad, as throughout his career, Yo-Yo Ma seeks to expand the cello repertoire, frequently performing lesser known music of the 20thcentury and commissions of new concertos and recital pieces.  He has premiered works by a diverse group of composers, among them Elliott Carter, Richard Danielpour, Osvaldo Golijov, Leon Kirchner, Zhao Lin, Christopher Rouse, Giovanni Sollima, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun, John Williams and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky. In February of 2017 he will premiere a new concerto by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, Mr. Ma is partnering with Maestro Riccardo Muti to provide collaborative musical leadership and guidance on innovative program development for The Negaunee Music Institute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and for Chicago Symphony artistic initiatives.  Ma's work focuses on the transformative power music can have in individuals' lives, and on increasing the number and variety of opportunities audiences have to experience music in their communities.  In March 2016, he was appointed Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of their expansive initiatives honoring the centenary of JFK's birth and to encourage the idea of creative citizenship.

Yo-Yo 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. At the same time, he continues to develop new concert programs for family audiences, for instance helping to inaugurate the family series at Carnegie Hall. In each of these undertakings, he works to connect music to students' daily surroundings and activities with the goal of making music and creativity a vital part of children's lives from an early age. He has also reached young audiences through appearances on "Arthur," "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street."  

Mr. Ma's discography of over 100 albums (including 18 Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests. He has made several successful recordings that defy categorization, among them "Appalachia Waltz" and "Appalachian Journey" with Mark O'Connor and Edgar Meyer, and two Grammy-winning tributes to the music of Brazil, "Obrigado Brazil" and "Obrigado Brazil – Live in Concert." Mr. Ma's recent recordings include: "The Goat Rodeo Sessions," with Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile and Stuart Duncan, which received the 2013 Grammy for Best Folk Album, and "Songs from the Arc of Life," with pianist Kathryn Stott.  His most recent release, "Sing Me Home," recorded with the Silk Road Ensemble, was released in April 2016 as the companion album to documentary film The Music of Strangers.  Created by Oscar-winning producer Morgan Neville, the film follows the Ensemble's more than 50 musicians, composers, visual artists and storytellers as they explore the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution.  In spring 2017, Mr. Ma will release and tour "Bach Trios," recorded with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile.  Mr. Ma remains one of the best-selling recording artists in the classical field.  All of his recent albums have quickly entered the Billboard chart of classical best sellers, remaining in the Top 15 for extended periods, often with as many as four titles simultaneously on the list.

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 Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the Leonie Sonning Music Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum's Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), the Polar Music Prize (2012) and the Vilcek Prize in Contemporary Music (2013).  In 2011, Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree.  Appointed a CultureConnect Ambassador by the United States Department of State in 2002, Mr. Ma has met with, trained and mentored thousands of students worldwide in countries including Lithuania, Korea, Lebanon, Azerbaijan and China.  He also serves as a UN Messenger of Peace.  He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony. 

Mr. Ma and his wife have two children. He plays two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.

 

Born in modern day Lvov, Poland, Emanuel Ax moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his family when he was a young boy. His studies at the Juilliard School were supported by the sponsorship of the Epstein Scholarship Program of the Boys Clubs of America, and he subsequently won the Young Concert Artists Award. Additionally, he attended Columbia University where he majored in French. Mr. Ax made his New York debut in the Young Concert Artists Series, and 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.

In partnership with frequent collaborator David Robertson, he begins the current season with six Mozart concerti over two weeks in St. Louis, repeating the project in Sydney in February. Following the gala opening of the Philadelphia Orchestra's season with Yannick Nezet-Seguin he returns to the orchestras in Cleveland, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Ottawa, Toronto, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, and to Carnegie Hall for a recital to conclude the season. In Europe he can be heard in Stockholm, Vienna, Paris, London, and on tour with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In support of the recent release of their disc of Brahms Trios for SONY, Mr. Ax will also tour across the U.S. with colleagues Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma during the winter.

Always a committed exponent of contemporary composers, with works written for him by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner already in his repertoire, most recently he has added HK Gruber's Piano Concerto and Samuel Adams' "Impromptus". Last season his ongoing relationship with the Boston Symphony included visits with them to Carnegie Hall, Montreal, and Toronto; with The Cleveland Orchestra Mr. Ax appeared as the featured artist for their Gala opening concert of the season and as a regular visitor he returned to the orchestras of Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Toronto, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Madrid and Amsterdam.

A Sony Classical exclusive recording artist since 1987, recent releases include Mendelssohn Trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss' Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart, and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff with Yefim Bronfman. In 2015 Deutche Grammophon released a duo recording with Mr. Perlman of Sonatas by Faure and Strauss, which the two artists presented on tour during the 2015/2016 season. 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 with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano. 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 2004/05 season Mr. Ax also contributed to an International EMMY® Award-Winning BBC documentary commemorating the Holocaust that aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2013, Mr. Ax's recording Variations received the Echo Klassik Award for Solo Recording of the Year (19th century music/Piano).

A frequent and committed partner for chamber music, he has worked regularly with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Mr. Ma, 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 about Mr. Ax's career, please visit www.EmanuelAx.com.

 

Leonidas Kavakos is recognised across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. He works with the world's greatest orchestras and conductors and is an exclusive artist with Decca Classics.

The three important mentors in his life have been Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados. By the age of 21, Leonidas Kavakos had already won three major competitions: the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg competitions in 1988. This success led to him recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/4), the first recording of this work in history, and which won Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award in 1991.

Leonidas Kavakos was the winner of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2017. This prestigious prize is Denmark's highest musical honour and is awarded annually to an internationally recognised composer, instrumentalist, conductor or singer. Previous winners include Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti, Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim and Sir Simon Rattle.

In the 2017/18 season Kavakos will be Artist in Residence at both the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Vienna Musikverein. He will tour Europe with the Filharmonica della Scala and Chailly and tour Europe and Asia with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Blomstedt. Elsewhere, he will perform widely as soloist including with the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Kavakos also gives the European premiere of Lera Auerbach's Nyx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4) with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

In December 2017 Kavakos will embark on a European recital tour with Yuja Wang, and in February 2018 he tours North America performing Brahms and Schubert trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax. He will also appear in recital with regular chamber music partner Enrico Pace in Asia and Europe.

Latterly, Leonidas Kavakos has built a strong profile as a conductor, and has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Gürzenich Orchester, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, and Budapest Festival orchestras. In the 2017/18 season he will conduct the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and Vienna Symphony.

As an exclusive recording artists with Decca Classics, his first release was Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace (January 2013), which was awarded the ECHO Klassik ‘Instrumentalist of the Year'. This was followed by the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly (October 2013), Brahms Violin Sonatas with Yuja Wang, (March 2014), and "Virtuoso" (April 2016). He was awarded Gramophone Artist of the Year 2014. In September 2017 Leonidas Kavakos joins Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax on a record of Brahms Trios released by Sony Classical.

Leonidas Kavakos' earlier discography encompasses recordings for BIS, ECM, and subsequently, for Sony Classical, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (ECHO Klassik ‘Best Concerto Recording') and Mozart's Violin Concertos, conducting and playing with Camerata Salzburg.

Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens and still resident there, Kavakos curates an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions. Part of this tradition is the art of violin and bow-making, which Kavakos regards as a great mystery and to this day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the ‘Willemotte' Stradivarius violin of 1734 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.

Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos

Brahms - The Piano Trios

Sony Classical

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1 Brahms - Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Opus 87 / Allegro  
2 Andante con moto  
3 Scherzo: Presto  
4 Finale: Allegro giocoso  
5 Brahms - Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 101 / Allegro energico  
6 Presto non assai  
7 Andante grazioso  
8 Allegro molto  
9 Brahms - Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Opus 8 / Allegro con brio  
10 Scherzo: Allegro molto  
11 Adagio  
12 Finale: Allegro  
Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma: Brahms Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his longtime collaborator, pianist Emanuel Ax, are joined by violinist Leonidas Kavakos in their first recording together for Sony Classical, of the piano trios of Johannes Brahms. Ax and Ma have collaborated in a distinguished catalog of Brahms recordings for Sony Classical, but this is their first recording together of the Piano Trios – and their first collaboration with Kavakos. For Ma, who believes Brahms wrote "really difficult music to play well," the collaboration with an old friend (Ax) and their new colleague (Kavakos) was an extraordinary experience. "What I was impressed by was that we could listen to a take and each one of us would make comments, but there was never a disagreement. We actually added these elements together, and it became a better performance. That was unusual. That doesn't happen often with three people, whether they know one another or not."

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Crossover Media Projects with: Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos