The prize is a "symbol of honor to be awarded to an internationally acknowledged composer, musician, conductor, or singer." Previous winners include pianist Arthur Rubenstein, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, composer Gy‹rgy Ligeti, violinist Isaac Stern, and conductor-composer Pierre Boulez. Conductor John Eliot Gardiner won the 2005 prize.
Ma will receive the prize at a concert on December 10, 2006. He will also lead a master class for young Danish cellists.
Ma, one of the most popular classical musicians in the world, is known for his performances in recital, with chamber groups, and as soloist with orchestra. Since 1998, he has been the major force behind the Silk Road Project, which documents and performs the music of the cultures along the ancient Silk Road from the Mediterranean to China.
His 50 albums include Appalachian, Brazilian, and Baroque music, as well as the standard classical repertoire. His most recent recordings include the Silk Road Ensemble's Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon, which spent much of the year at the top of the Billboard classical chart, and a two-disc compilation titled The Essential Yo-Yo Ma.