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Yo-Yo Ma’s lifelong study of the Bach Cello Suites began at the tender age of 4 and continues through his recent film and performance project, Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach. Prior to Pablo Casals’ rediscovery of the six suites in the early part of this century, they were considered technical exercises without much performance value. Today, the intricately composed and musically sensitive pieces have become the cornerstone of every aspiring and professional cellist’s repertoire. In his 1983 recording, Ma supersedes technical demands with virtuosity and adeptly navigates the inner mechanical structure of Bach’s genius, but his newest interpretation for Sony reveals a true maturity of tone and emotional depth that could only be perfected with time and experience. Part of Ma’s newfound enthusiasm and interest in the suites was generated by his participation in a 1991 symposium on Albert Schweitzer, the prestigious Bach scholar who viewed the composer’s works as having strong extramusical qualities, especially visual and pictorial aspects. Ma’s incorporation of these ideas into his interpretations results in an entirely different and highly expressive understanding of the Cello Suites. And while Ma’s talent as a musician is undebatable, it is this irrepressible curiosity and continual striving to learn and expand the boundaries of the known classical repertoire that will forever set him apart from any other performer in his field. Ma participates in a lecture with film director Niv Fichman at 1 p.m. Friday at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. $25. For reservations call (202) 357-3030; his performance of Cello Suites 1, 5, and 6 begins at 8 p.m. Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, Wisconsin & Massachusetts Aves. NW. $15-50. (202) 833-9800. (Amy Domingues)