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Recipient 2022: Yo-Yo Ma

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma was the first instrumentalist to receive the Birgit Nilsson Prize, which was presented to him by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf at the Prize Ceremony on October 18, 2022 at Konserthuset Stockholm.

Receiving the Prize, Yo-Yo Ma said “As I leave Sweden tomorrow, I will carry with me these forever memories, the memory of this evening, with such moving performances … But l will also leave with a promise, a commitment to practice the values Birgit Nilsson held so dear: joy and humor, closeness to the land and to nature, and a life in balance with others and with our planet.”

The Prize will support Yo-Yo Ma’s ongoing work to explore how culture can strengthen our connections to one another and to the natural world. Over the next several years, Yo-Yo will continue a journey that began in 2018 with the Bach Project. In the project he will be visiting places that epitomize culture and nature’s potential to move the human soul, creating collaborative works of art and convening conversations that seek to strengthen our relationship to our planet and to each other.

The ceremony

The Prize Ceremony was accompanied by a musical celebration featuring the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and conductor Patrik Ringborg, the Swedish Radio Choir, Royal Swedish Opera Choir, Maria Bengtsson (soprano) and rising star soloists Amalie Stalheim (cello), Johanna Wallroth (soprano) and Emma Sventelius (mezzo-soprano).

Earlier in the week, Yo-Yo Ma met with ten young cellists from cultural schools around Sweden who also had the opportunity to attend his rehearsal and performance of Dvorak’s cello concerto with the Royal Stockholm Phlharmonic and Alan Gilbert.