I first became aware of 2Cellos when a Facebook friend posted this video:
Notice the guys’ raggedy bows, with the horsehair hanging down? Before this video, I’d never seen that before. No self-respecting cellist would perform with his bow in that condition.
Now it’s a trend.
I had the good fortune of sitting in a front row seat when they performed at a local venue a few years ago. They played so fast and so hard that I could literally smell the horsehair on their bows burning. I understand how their bows got that way.
The duo is made up of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser. Hauser, born in Pula, Croatia, and Šulić, born in Maribor, Slovenia, are classically trained musicians. They met while still in their teens. Šulić attended the Academy of Music in Zagreb, and then studied in Vienna. He later entered London’s Royal Academy of Music. Hauser attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, after completing his studies at Trinity Laban in London. Before they became partners, the two cellists were sometimes rivals, competing against each other in music contests.
Despite their musical success in the United Kingdom, Hauser and Šulić struggled financially until a friend suggested making the music video cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The duo rose to fame in 2011 after their video became a hit on YouTube, receiving over three million views in the first two weeks.
After Elton John watched the “Smooth Criminal” video online, he personally called Šulić and invited the duo to appear with him on his thirty-one city 2011 summer tour.
2Cellos has recorded four albums with Sony Masterworks.
Though their video covers of pop music have made them famous, they both still perform classically, soloing with major symphony orchestras around the world.
Yo-Yo Ma was born in October 7, 1955, to Chinese parents living in Paris. His mother, Marina Lu, was a singer and his father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma, was a violinist and professor of music at Nanjing National Central University.
He began playing the cello with his father at age four. Three years later, his family moved to New York City, and he continued his cello studies at the Juilliard School. After his conservatory training, he attended Harvard University, graduating with a degree in anthropology in 1976.
Prior to entering Harvard, Ma played in the Marlboro Festival Orchestra under the direction of cellist and conductor Pablo Casals. There he met and fell in love with festival administrator Jill Hornor. They married in 1978.
Ma has performed with many of the world’s major orchestras. He has also played chamber music, often with the pianist Emanuel Ax, with whom he has a close friendship from their days together at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Ma has an eclectic repertoire which include Baroque pieces; American bluegrass music; traditional Chinese melodies, including the soundtrack to the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; the tangos of Argentinian composer Ástor Piazzolla; Brazilian music; a collaboration with Bobby McFerrin; as well as the work of modern minimalist Philip Glass.
Ma formed the Silk Road Ensemble, bringing together musicians from diverse countries historically linked via the Silk Road, the famous route which for more than two thousand years was used for trade, notably spices, all the way across Europe and Asia to China. He also founded the Silk Road Connect, involving children from middle schools in the United States.
Ma is known for his smooth, rich tone as well as his virtuosity, and his humble spirit and humanitarianism. He has recorded more than 90 albums and received 18 Grammy Awards.