21 June 2024

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan artists: Yo Yo Ma and Antonio Meneses – Karajan’s cello fellows

They were Karajan’s musical partners in their early years and they are now two great cellists of our time.

Yo Yo Ma (b. 1955) and Antonio Meneses (b. 1957) benefited from Karajan’s intention to perform important works of the repertoire with young upcoming musicians.
Ma, one of today’s most famous instrumentalists, met Karajan for the first time on 27 August 1978 for Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto” with two other young soloists, Mark Zeltser and Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the Berlin Philharmonic, notably Karajan’s first-ever live performance of this work. This was also the team for his second studio recording of the concerto in 1979 (the first one was the legendary Richter/Oistrakh/Rostropovich recording) and for the New Year’s Eve Concert in Berlin the same year. Two years later, Karajan and Ma also performed Strauss’ “Don Quixote” in Berlin. Ma started a tremendously successful career and became United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2006. More than forty years after their first encounter, on the occasion of Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020, Yo Yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter recorded the “Triple Concerto” again, this time with Daniel Barenboim as pianist and conductor.

Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses won the prestigious Tchaikovsky competition in 1982. In the following year, Karajan assembled Meneses, Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Berlin Philharmonic for two concerts and a recording of Brahms’ double concerto. In 1986, Meneses played Strauss’ “Don Quixote” in a film and a recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. Karajan told his biographer Richard Osborne in 1989 why he had chosen Meneses:

“Our last recording [of ‘Don Quixote’] was with the cellist Antonio Meneses, which I admired very much because of the great beauty of line Meneses was able to bring to the epilogue.”

Meneses – who was also part of the legendary “Beaux Arts Trio” for ten years – performs and teaches all over the world.

“Conversations with Karajan” Edited with an Introduction by Richard Osborne. Oxford University Press. 1989

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