cello

Yo-Yo Ma opened his recent Tiny Desk concert with the gently rolling "Prelude" from J. S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1. It's music Ma has lived with nearly all of his life.

"Believe it or not, this was the very first piece of music I started on the cello when I was four years old," he told the crowd, tightly squeezed between the office furniture on NPR's fourth floor.

Baroque Cellist Juliana Soltis
Teresa Tam Studio

There was a time and a place when the cello was the Rodney Dangerfield of instruments — it got no respect.

That time was the 1700s, and the place was France, where the cello occupied a lowly place in the minds of many. In fact, one writer of the time went so far as to call the instrument “a miserable canker, wretch and poor Devil.”

Things looked pretty bleak indeed for the cello, until one great artist pulled it up from the abyss, altering the course of the instrument’s history forever.