Yo-Yo Ma has said his career in music has felt like a “gift” after scoliosis threatened to stop him playing the cello.

The musician suffered the spine condition in his 20s and said he was initially “at peace” with the prospect of having his career cut short.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs he thought he would “find something else to do” if he was no longer able to play his instrument.

“You think you are immortal at a certain time in your life and I knew that this was a major operation,” Ma, 65, said.

“And I was kind of at peace with whatever was going to happen because I was with my wife, she was obviously worried, but that wasn’t going to affect her relationship to me regardless of how the operation turned out.”

Ma, who has won 18 Grammy Awards and sold millions of records during his career, added: “It was a very meaningful moment because then the extra years that came from being able to play, that was a gift.”

Ma also said he was glad that his wife, Jill, persuaded him to ensure their children received music lessons.

“So they took piano lessons, my son loves to sing, my daughter played the violin and they both grew up with so many musicals and stuff, and they knew all the words and when they get together they sing.

“And what I think is music is part of human literacy.

“It’s one more way to access our inner lives and our external lives.”

Earlier this year, Ma went viral on social media after performing an impromptu concert at a vaccination centre in the US as he celebrated receiving his second dose of the coronavirus jab.

When asked whether he was recognised at the centre, Ma said: “Some people did and some people didn’t.

“Someone asked me on my way out, ‘Do you play with an orchestra?'”

Ma added: “I said, ‘Yes, sometimes I do’.”