The celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma will make his long overdue Australian debut in 2019, performing Bach’s six solo Cello Suites in Sydney and Melbourne. To be played without interval, these concerts form part of Ma’s ongoing The Bach Project, which will see him perform all six suites across six continents over the next two years. It’s a fitting nod to the artist’s six-decade association with these iconic cello works, first made popular by Pablo Casals in the 1930s. And as a continuation of Ma’s commitment to social activism, each performance is to be accompanied by a special event that he has dubbed a “day of action”, addressing serious contemporary issues close to his heart.

Yo-Yo Ma. Photo © Jason Bell 

“We live in a world of boundless possibility, but we also face daunting challenges, even to our very survival,” said Ma. “I believe that during times of stress, confusion, and insecurity, we should share sources that offer comfort, purpose, and meaning. Bach does that. When his music touches us, it reconnects us to our common humanity.”

In September of 2017 Ma sold out the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, performing the suites to an audience of more than 17,000, a remarkable testament to the soloist’s star power. Critic Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker that it was “the loveliest experience of my listening year”, describing the audience as “under the spell of a solitary searcher in the dark. One of the only sounds I heard around me was someone quietly sobbing.”

The tour coincides with the recent release of Ma’s third and final recording of the suites on Sony Classical, which was praised by Limelight in the December 2018 issue for its “fluency and freedom.” The cellist first recorded the works in 1983, followed by a 1998 release accompanied by films documenting his multidisciplinary collaborations with artists like choreographer Mark Morris.

Ma has credited the suites with providing him with “sustenance, comfort, and joy during times of stress, celebration and loss” over his prolific six-decade career.


Yo-Yo Ma performs at the Sydney Opera House, November 4 and Arts Centre Melbourne, November 8.

Tickets are on sale exclusively through the venues from November 30.