Ever wanted one of the world’s greatest cellists in your living room for an intimate chat about Bach? Wait no longer. If you are a user of Alexa, Amazon’s popular virtual assistant, then Yo-Yo Ma’s Musical Moments is the latest ‘skill’ on offer.

Created to complement last Friday’s release of the French-born American cellist’s third recording of the six Bach Cello Suites – what will be the 62-year-old virtuoso’s final thoughts on the works, we are told – Ma can now guide listeners through the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, while sharing excerpts from the new CD and telling stories gleaned from a lifetime spent in the company of one of classical music’s greatest composers.

Amazon’s Alexa has been steadily building a substantial catalogue of skills – essentially add on apps – that can allow her to do pretty much anything from playing 20 questions to barking like a dog (the Jurassic Bark skill, apparently voiced by Cali, a maltese poodle from Seattle), but this is a first for any classical music artist. Yo-Yo Ma’s Musical Moments is available as an Alexa Skill on English-language Alexa-enabled devices and can also be found on Sony Classical’s Today in Classical as part of Amazon’s Flash Briefing.

All you need to do is say: “Alexa, open Yo-Yo Ma’s Musical Moments”. The virtual assistant will reward you with Ma’s dulcet tones saying, “Hi, this is Yo-Yo Ma. Thanks for joining me for this exploration of classical music through Bach’s Cello Suites. Would you like to hear today’s track or explore the archive?” A simple response is all that’s required and you’re off. If you already have Today in Classical as part of your Flash Briefing in the Amazon Alexa app, all you need do is say: “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?” For a step-by-step guide on how to access the skill and Flash Briefing, please click here.

According to Sony, the new content is designed for “anyone who is curious about classical music and its contemporary significance”. With 58 years’ experience playing these works – yes, Ma first visited Bach at the age of four! – the new recording, which delivers readings of an exceptional intensity and depth, is an especially rewarding listen in itself. But with Ma’s proven track record as one of classical music’s most inspirational communicators and educators, the new Alexa Skill is an intriguing add-on, and the latest example of the industry’s efforts to increase classical music’s reach and engagement in the digital age.


Yo-Yo Ma’s Six Evolutions – Bach Cello Suites is available now on Sony