The American cellist Yo-Yo Ma has been named as the 2022 recipient of the $1 million Birgit Nilsson Prize.


Ma (pictured) is the first instrumentalist to receive the prize, which has previously been awarded to the baritone Plácido Domingo, conductor Riccardo Muti, the Vienna Philharmonic and soprano Nina Stemme.

He will be presented with the prize by King Carl XVI Gustaf at the Prize Ceremony on 18 October at the Stockholm Concert Hall. During his visit to Sweden, Ma will also perform in a concert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and conductor Alan Gilbert on 16 October.

Announcing this year’s Prize from the Birgit Nilsson Museum in Sweden, Susanne Rydén said: 'In today’s challenging and ever-evolving world, when classical music is too easily marginalized, Yo-Yo Ma embodies everything that Birgit Nilsson wished for in a fellow-artist when she created this Prize.’

The criteria for the prize, which is awarded approximately every three years, include impeccable musicianship and expressiveness, interpretive prowess, an exceptional performance record, preferably over two decades or more as well as a distinctive performance style. It is also desirable to have an active interest in young artists as well as a humanitarian engagement.

Originally founded by Birgit Nilsson towards the end of the Swedish soprano’s career, the prize was originally intended for singers, conductors or institutions – a list that was extended to include instrumentalists in 2019.


Photo: Jason Bell


Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.