Bach Cello Suites

Ihre Vorschau von der Schriftart Middle Saxony Text

   Bach Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012

 YouTube


No. 1 in G major BWV 1007

No. 2 in G major BWV 1008
No. 3 in G major BWV 1009

No. 4 in G major BWV 1010
No. 5 in G major BWV 1011

No. 6 in G major BWV 1012

 

 

The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are acclaimed as some of the greatest works ever written for solo cello. They were most likely composed during the period 1717–1723, when Bach served as a Kapellmeister in Cöthen.

The suites contain a great variety of technical devices, a wide range of emotional content, and some of Bach's most compelling voice interactions and conversations. It is their intimacy, however, that has made the suites amongst Bach's most popular works today, resulting in their different recorded interpretations being fiercely defended by their respective advocates.

The suites have been transcribed for numerous instruments, including the viola, double bass, classical guitar, horn, saxophone, trombone, euphonium, and tuba.

 History

An exact chronology of the suites (regarding both the order in which the suites were composed and whether they were composed before or after the solo violin sonatas) cannot be completely established. However, scholars generally believe that—based on a comparative analysis of the styles of the sets of works—the cello suites arose first, effectively dating the suites pre-1720, the year on the title page of Bach's autograph of the violin sonatas.

The suites were not widely known before the 1900s, and for a long time it was generally thought that the pieces were intended to be études. However, after discovering Grützmacher's edition in a thrift shop, Pablo Casals began studying and performing the works, although it was 35 years before he agreed to record the pieces, becoming the first to create a complete record of all 6 suites. Their popularity soared soon after, and Casals's original recording is still widely available today.

Attempts to compose piano accompaniments to the suites include a notable effort by Robert Schumann. In 1923, Leopold Godowsky realised suites 2, 3 and 5 in full counterpoint for solo piano.

Unlike Bach's violin sonatas, no autograph manuscript survives, thus ruling out the use of an urtext performing edition. However, analysis of secondary sources—including a hand-written copy by Bach's second wife, Anna Magdalena—have produced passably authentic editions, although critically deficient in the placement of slurs and other articulation. As a result, many interpretations of the suites exist, with no singularly accepted version.

Recent speculation by Professor Martin Jarvis of Charles Darwin University School of Music, in Darwin, Australia holds that Anna Magdalena may have been the composer of several musical pieces attributed to her husband.[1] Jarvis proposes that Magdalena wrote the six Cello Suites, and was involved with the composition of the aria from the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). Musicologists and performers, however, point to thin evidence of this proposition, remaining skeptical of the claim.

The Suites

The suites are in six movements each, and have the following structure and order of movements.

  1. Prelude
  2. Allemande
  3. Courante
  4. Sarabande
  5. Galanteries – (Minuets for Suites 1 and 2, Bourrées for 3 and 4, Gavottes for 5 and 6)
  6. Gigue

Scholars believe that Bach intended the works to be considered as a systematically conceived cycle, rather than an arbitrary series of pieces: Compared to Bach's other suite collections, the cello suites are the most consistent in order of their movements. In addition, to achieve a symmetrical design and go beyond the traditional layout, Bach inserted intermezzo or galanterie movements in the form of pairs between the Sarabande and the Gigue.

It should also be noticed that only four movements in the entire set of suites are completely non-chordal: that means they consist only of a single melodic line. These are the second Minuet of the 1st Suite, the second Minuet of the 2nd suite, the second Bourrée of the 3rd suite and the Sarabande of the 5th Suite. (The 2nd Gavotte of the 5th Suite has but one prim-chord (the same actual note played on two strings at the same time), but only in the original scordatura version of the suite — in the standard tuning version it is completely free from chords.)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cello_Suites_(Bach)

 

Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007

The Prelude, mainly consisting of arpeggiated chords, is probably the best known movement from the entire set of suites and is regularly heard on television and in films. The second Minuet is one of only four movements in all six suites that doesn't contain any chords. Most students begin with this suite as it is assumed to be easier to play than the others, both in terms of the technique required and considerations of interpretation.

  •   Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008

  • The Prelude consists of two parts, the first of which has a strong recurring theme that is immediately introduced in the beginning. The second part is a scale-based cadenza movement that leads to the final, powerful chords. The subsequent Allemande contains short cadenzas that stray away from this otherwise very strict dance form. The first Minuet contains demanding chord shiftings and string crossings.
  • Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009


  • The Prelude of this suite consists of an A-B-A-C form, with A being a scale-based movement that eventually dissolves into an energetic arpeggio part; and B, where the cellist is introduced to thumb position, which is needed to reach the demanding chords. It then returns to the scale theme, and ends with a powerful and surprising chord movement.

    The Allemande is the only movement in the suites that has an up-beat consisting of three sixteenth-notes instead of just one, which is the standard form.

    The second Bourrée, though in C minor, has a 2-flat (or G minor) key-signature. This notation, common in pre-Classical music, is sometimes known as a partial key-signature.

     

     Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, BWV 1010

  • Suite No. 4 is one of the most technically demanding of the suites since E-flat is an uncomfortable key to intonate on the cello and requires many extended left hand positions. The Prelude primarily consists of a difficult flowing eight-note movement that leaves room for a cadenza before returning to its original theme. The very peaceful Sarabande is quite obscure about the stressed second beat, which is the basic characteristic of the 3/4 dance, since, in this particular Sarabande, almost every first beat contains a chord, whereas the second beat most often doesn't.

    Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011


  • Suite No. 5 was originally written in scordatura with the A-string tuned down to G, but nowadays a version for standard tuning is included in almost every edition of the suites along with the original version. Some chords must be simplified when playing with standard tuning, but some melodic lines become easier as well.

    The Prelude is written in an A-B form, and is a French overture. It begins with a slow, emotional movement that explores the deep range of the cello. After that comes a fast and very demanding single-line fugue that leads to the powerful end.

    This suite is most famous for its intimate Sarabande, which is the second of only four movements in all six suites that doesn't contain any chords. The fifth suite is also exceptional as its Courante and Gigue are in the French style, rather than the Italian form of the other five suites.

    An autograph manuscript of Bach's lute version of this suite exists as BWV 995.[2]

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    Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012

  • It is widely believed that the sixth suite was composed specifically for a five-stringed violoncello piccolo, a smaller cello, roughly the size of a 7/8 normal cello that has a fifth upper string tuned to E, a perfect fifth above the otherwise top string. However, some say there is not substantial evidence to support this claim: whilst three of the sources inform the player that it is written for an instrument "a cinq cordes", only Anna Magdalena Bach's manuscript indicates the tunings of the strings and the other sources do not mention any intended instrument at all.

    Other possible instruments for the suite include a version of the violoncello piccolo played on the arm like a viola, as well as a five-stringed normal sized cello, called a viola pomposa. As the range required in this piece is very large, the suite was probably intended for a larger instrument, although it is conceivable that Bach—who was fond of the viola—may have performed the work himself on an arm-held violoncello piccolo. However, it is equally likely that beyond hinting the number of strings, Bach did not intend any specific instrument at all as the construction of instruments in the early 18th century was highly variable.

    Cellists wishing to play the piece on a modern four-string cello encounter difficulties as they are forced to use very high positions to reach many of the notes, though modern cellists regularly perform the suite on the 4-string instrument. Performers specialising in early music and using authentic instruments generally use the 5-string cello for this suite, including Pieter Wispelwey, Anner Bylsma and Jaap ter Linden.

    This suite is written in much more free form than the others, containing more cadenza-like movements and virtuosic passages. It is also the only one of the suites that is partly notated in the various C clefs, which is not needed for the others since they never go above the note G4 (G above middle C).

    Mstislav Rostropovich called this suite "a symphony for solo cello" and characterised its D major tonality as evoking joy and triumph.

    Source: http://www.wimmercello.com/bachms.html

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    Recordings  - (Highlighted with yellow - from my collection)

    1

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Boris Pergamenschikow (cello)

    Hänssler

    1998

    2-CD / TT: 2:09:00

    2

    Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Yo-Yo Ma (cello)

    CBS/Sony

    1983

    2-CD / TT:

    1st recording of the Cello Suites by Yo Yo Ma

    3

    The Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Yo-Yo Ma (cello)

    Sony

    1997

    2-CD / TT:

    2nd recording of the Cello Suites by Yo Yo Ma

  • 4

    Suites for Violoncello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Anner Bylsma (cello)

    Sony

    1979

    2-CD / TT:

     

    5

    Suites for Violoncello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Bach: The Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, BWV 1007-1012

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Anner Bylsma (cello)

    Sony

    1992

    2-CD / TT:

    6

    Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Ralph Kirshbaum (cello)

    Virgin

    1994

    2-CD / TT: 2:20:45

    7

    Six Suites for Solo Violoncello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Roel Dieltiens (cello)

    Accent

    1991

    2-CD / TT:

    8

    Suites for Cello Solo

    Bruns, Peter - Tךte ְ Tךte - Bach: Cello Suites / Peter Bruns CD Cover Art

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Peter Bruns (cello)

    Opus 111

    Naive

    1997

    2003

    2-CD TT: 2:05:35

    9

    Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Paolo Beschi (cello)

    Winter & Winter

    1998

    2-CD / TT: 2:09:01

    10

    6 Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Pierre Fournier (cello)

    Archiv

    1961

    2-CD / TT: 2:18:40

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  • 11

    Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Pieter Wispelwey (cello)

    Channel Classics 1989-1990

    CD / TT:

     

    12

    6 Suites for per violoncello solo

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Pieter Wispelwey (cello)

    Channel Classics

    1998

    2-CD / TT:

    2nd recording of the Cello Suites by P. P. Wispelwey

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  • by Chia Han-Leon

     

    The playing here, the instruments, the music is all wonderful, if you take my word for it. But after all this, perhaps the greatest thing about this album is the personal tribute to the composer and his cello suites written by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey. It is so... really reflected in the performances that I think I shall say that the sincerity and the humanity of his essay already gives his recording the fully favourable review it deserves. Instead of treating the Suites one by one, Wispelwey examines each dance movement in turn, framing each with an introduction and a conclusion (quoted in this article in the insets).

    So if you ask me if a player could ever "review" his own performance - here is the best example, and I embraced it fully. This album is perhaps the best instance of a self-contained tribute, education and showcase of its music and performer. Wispelwey is aware even of the dangers of writing on this macroscopic music, when he describes the music as "less pompous than the words it can tempt us to use." And tempt it does, and I am guilty of being tempted far too many times. In almost every instance, I must agree that words cannot do justice to this music, nor its performer here. For this I offer my profoundest apologies to Bach and Mr Wispelwey. Perhaps in time, we will find the right words...

    Pieter Wispelwey Time passes so fast with this music. Time... 250 years... The simplicity of Bach's writing is often forgotten when one listens to players like Wispelwey. The score of the opening prelude of the First Suite, with its endless semiquavers, shows no indication of tempo or rhythmic variation (except for the two pauses) and yet it is suffused with the myriad beauty of rubato. It is all up to the cellist to use this thing of human variation, that human art called music. Someone once asked me, while I was playing this track to him and showing him the score, how is it that the rhythm of the semiquavers are so strict, yet the player does not obey the score at all?

    Precisely.

    Wispelwey never forces his personality on the music - it comes across as entirely natural. Warmth and sincerity is caught in the fast movements, while his slow sarabandes are loving, nobly anguished, questioning... but always human. Listening to him, the cello seems to disappear, and there is just something human left. Thinking upon that, Wispelwey himself seems to disappear, and there is just something universal left. It is as if, if one could fill the infinity of the star-filled universe with air, one would hear this music.

    WORD OF THANKS by Pieter Wispelwey (trans. Ian Gaukroger)
    ... Let us imagine once again how this domain was entered when the great Bach humbly began to write down our notes one by one. Let us also remember that it was a ca.35-year-old Bach who concentrated his powers to channel his unbridled creativity and energy - a man whose brain functioned hundreds of times more quickly than his quill could write (although that must have been impressive too). His was a fantasy which covered an enormous spectrum, just as the suites encompass the entire spectrum of simplicity to sublimity (among others).

    It is the stratifications that makes the Suites so hypnotic, the endless evocativeness while using only a single cello. A fascinating paradox, this alchemy in dance form. It is not unfathomably profound music by a deeply religious composer advanced in years, nor it it biblical in the thoroughly serious sense. That would not be moving. Above all it is magical music and possibly biblical in the sense that it narrates stories in a comprehensible language, from the archaic to the refined, about the immeasurable dimensions and variations of the human experiment.

    For that reason we are grateful: grateful that these pieces exist, that they seem to be about everything, that we are moved without being able to grasp them or even know whether we are meant to grasp them, that we enjoy them quia absurdum est.

    Wispelwey calls the courante of the Fifth Suite "clenched with power", and certainly he drives it along with great strength, but also a "masculine" grace. His touch is gracefully light, and his instruments respond with amazing, intricate detail and sensitivity, even sensuality. The voices of the cello (Barak Norman, 1710) and the violoncello piccolo (anon. 18th century) used are light and articulate, with a texture most pleasing to the ear. The menuets are light, youthfully light; or urging, but also light, and happy in an an earnest, untainted way. Where the music is more vigorous, the cellist skips, leaps and dances with turning, curving joy.

    The opening prelude of Suite No.4 positively dances.. what is it?... Unbelievable, I told myself inside my head as I listened to this ... it is like light itself dancing. Shafts of E-flat flittering, scintillating in the air. And the light gathers itself, corsucating with more and more weight... then darkness wandering... then the dance of light returns.

    Wispelwey plays with such honesty. His passion is tempered but sincere, but never overboard. In fact what I love so much about this entire set is the total serenity of his utterance in whatever key, whatever level of discipline or passion. At no point does he seem as if he is trying to challenge old or acknowledged ways of playing this music, or trying to outwit another cellist in a competition. The playing is completely detached from the outside world, and yet it is for the world, relishing in its beauty, almost showing our own beauty to ourselves.

    Even in deep melancholia Wispelwey finds something consoling to tell us. In the two bourיes of Suite No.4, the first seems like a grown man reliving his childhood, the second simply made me smile with its open-hearted humour.

     

     Source:http://inkpot.com/classical/bachvcwis.html

     

      

    13

    Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Susan Sheppard (cello)

    Metronome

    1999

    2-CD / TT: 2:14:01

    14

    Cello Suites

    B0000665Z9.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Jaap ter Linden (cello)

    Harmonia Mundi

    1997

    2-CD / TT: 2:25:33

    15

    Cello Suites Nos. 1-6

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Pablo Casals (cello)

    EMI

    1936-1939

    2-CD / TT: 2:13:17

    16

    Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Barbara Westphal (viola)

    Bridge

    1999

    2-CD / TT:1:59:10

    17

    6 Cello Suites performed on viola

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Patricia McCarty (viola)

    Ashmont

    2000

    2-CD / TT: 2:15:06

    18

    Cello Suites Nos. 1-6

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)

    EMI

    1995

    2-CD / TT:

    19

    6 Suites for Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Mischa Maisky (cello)

    Deutsche Grammophon

    1999

    2-CD / TT: 2:34:35

  • "The cellist Mischa Maisky is one of the best of his profession. His new recording of the six cello suites written by Johann Sebastian Bach are one of the early highlights of the "Bach year" which will reach its climax with the 250th anniversary of his death on July 28, 2000. Already in 1999, Mischa Maisky started a world concert tour playing the recorded cello-suites by Bach. The Catalan cellist Pablo Casals is responsible for the popularity of the six solo suites, In 1890, he found a copy of the so-called Grützmacher-edition of the suites in a music antiques shop in Barcelona. Bach's preludes leave a great creative liberty to the performer which Casals decided to use in the sense of his romanticism.
     
    In 1959, Valery Maisky, a Bach scholar and performer to whose memory this new recording is dedicated, gave a copy of the 1957 Musgyz edition by Alexander Stogorsky to his younger brother Mischa. Later, Mstislaw Rostropowitsch and Gregor Piatigorsky (Stogorsky's brother) introduced Mischa into the secrets of Bach's cello suites. Finally, Maisky discovered the legendary Casals recordings from the 1930s. First, he thought they were "crazy" but with each hearing he started to appreciate them more and today he admits that "Casals was a major influence" on him.
     
    Regarding the re-recording of the cello suites, Mischa Maisky refers to a funny occurrence. Passing a hifi shop in Zurich a few years ago, he noticed some interesting loudspeakers. To try them out, the salesman put on a demonstration CD. "There was some orchestral music, a singer, a violinist and then the Bourrée from the C major Cello Suite. I thought it was someone making fun of me - it sounded like a parody. When I saw it was my [1985] recording, I was shocked. I hat not heard it for a number of years." So Maisky was pleased when the Deutsche Grammophon suggested a new version for the "Bach year", although he stresses that for him, "every year is Bach Year". The result of Maisky's 1999 recordings in an abbey in the Flemish part of Belgium (called Flanders) is recommended to all lovers of classical music" (review based on the booklet text by Tully Potter).

  • Source: http://www.cosmopolis.ch/english/cosmo7/maisky.htm

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    20

    Cello Suites

    Cello_Suite_No._1_G_major_BWV_1007___Prelude

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Guido Schiefen (cello)

    Arte Nova

    1996

    CD / TT:

     

    21

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Bach: Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Pierre Fournier
    Archiv Produktion

     

    CD

     

    22 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Bach: Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Heinrich Schiff
    EMI Classics

     May 24, 2005

     

     23

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Bach: Cello Suites (Queyras)

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

     Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello),
    Harmonia Mundi

     10/09/2007 

     utp://www.musicalcriticism.com/recordings/cd-queyras-bach-0http://www.musicalcriticism.com/recordings/cd-queyras-bach-0108.shtml08.shtmlsicalriticism.com

    There seems to be an unspoken rule that the great solo string works of Bach should not be tackled by young performers. Although this has been recently blown out of the water by violinists such as Julia Fischer, some of the press coverage of Steven Isserlis' recording of the cello suites suggested that this view still held for the cello works. Indeed, the cellist's own assertion that he didn't and probably never would feel ready to record them rather backed this up.

    Isserlis had 'finally' recorded the works in his late forties last year, released on Hyperion. I've searched in vain to find details of Jean-Guihen Queyras' age, but would guess he's some ten years younger than the British cellist. To my ears, though, Queyras' recording stands up extremely well against Isserlis' outstanding, multi-award winning reading. And I have to say that this new release from Harmonia Mundi suffers nothing from being played by a younger man. It's impossible to tell whether it is anything to do with age, but there's an open-minded expressiveness that sounds not as though it results from an attempt at extra-musical interpretation or understanding but, quite simply, a heartfelt reaction to the music itself.

    Recorded in March 2007 at the church of St. Cyriak in Sulzburg, the acoustic is slightly reverberant but not distractlingly so. In fact it serves to emphasise the glorious sound Queyras gets out of his cello, a rich and sweet sounding instrument by Gioffredo Cappa from 1696 (it comes into its own, particularly, in the more expansive sixth suite). The top is expressive and honeyed, the lower range rich and fruity. Comparing these performances with those of Isserlis, it strikes the listener as a far more physical and sensual experience, rather than a more overtly intellectual one; although Hyperion's sound for Isserlis is beyond reproach, he is given a drier acoustic.

    Queyras sets his stall out straight away with an unfussy but finely turned account of the First Suite's Prelude. He plays with an easy naturalness and employs a subtle rubato that keeps the music breathing but never causes it to lose momentum. Technically, the playing is spot-on: intonation is secure and he maintains a beautiful tone throughout the set, whether it's a slow sarabande or a virtuosic gigue. In some of the allemandes, Queyras takes a rather slow basic tempo, as is the case in the first four suites, where each of the movements lasts around a minute longer than in Isserlis's version. This inevitably takes them away from their origins in dance and could be seen as 'inauthentic' but in many of the other movements there is a delectable bounce and liveliness – listen to the Courante of the Sixth Suite, for example, or the Gigue from the fourth.

    It says something about the recording that I constantly had to dicipline myself not simply to get seduced by the the sheer beauty of the cello playing. That's not to say, though, that there isn't ample evidence of a keen musical intelligence at play, just that it seems - in my view, correctly - to have been subordinated to musical requirements. One has to admit that in the astonishing Sarabande from the Fifth Suite Queyras doesn't quite achieve the same hushed intensity as Isserlis – this movement is central to the latter's association of the whole of that suite with the Passion – but it's still profoundly moving. Queyras's reading of that suite's prelude is fuller though; on the whole, I especially enjoyed his improvisatory way with the preludes, the rhetorical flourishes in the Third Suite's striking me as particularly successful.    

    It's interesting to compare Isserlis' own booklet note, where he explains not only the textual choices for his recording but also elaborates his own 'personal feeling (definitely not a theory!)' with the brief interview with Queyras that accompanies his recording. The younger player focuses on Bach's sheer compositional virtuosity and displays little inclination to express anything along the lines of a 'personal feeling'. He's most definitly not paralysed by reverence for the works or the famously knotty problems surrounding their 'authentic' performance but just gets on with playing them; for him these are living, breathing musical works, rather than mystically divine bequests to humanity.

    The set also includes a DVD with a brief film from the recording sessions and the complete Third Suite. Queyras is greeted warmly by the recording's producer, Cécile Lenoir, and they chat with one another and to the camera with a refreshing and revealing openness. It's worth pointing out that Queyras, who has considerable 'period instrument' experience, made this recording with a modern bow and strings.

    By Hugo Shirley  

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    24 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Steven Isserlis (cello)
    Hyperion

     2007

  • by Charlotte Gardner
    22 May 2007

    "The question that immediately springs to mind on the release of a new CD set of the Bach Cello Suites is what, of value, could this recording possibly add to the myriad of existing recordings by the world’s great and not-so-great cellists? Steven Isserlis argues that you don’t record this set of masterpieces for the public, but rather for your own musical accomplishment. I’m not sure I subscribe to that view, but it doesn’t matter as, unlikely as it may sound, I think that Isserlis has done the impossible. He has given the listener something new, and indeed something outstandingly good.

    Isserlis has based his interpretation on a combination of the earliest four surviving manuscripts, drawing mostly from the Anna Magdalena copy. He also provides a scholarly treat at the end of the suites – three extra recordings of the first Prelude, played from the earliest three copies in turn. It is a fascinating insight into the variations of tempo, bowing, and ornamentation presented to each cellist as they decide upon their own interpretation.

    Along with many cellists, Isserlis feels that the suites aren’t dance suites alone but have a story behind them. He suggests that their expressive journey marks them as “Mystery Suites”, travelling from the nativity (No.1) to the agony in the garden (No.2), the descent of the Holy Spirit (No.3), the Presentation in the Temple (No.4), the Crucifixion (No.5), to the Resurrection (No.6). Whether you agree with this theory or not, it is an interesting take which probably merits further research. In the meantime, it gives the listener another way of hearing the familiar music, and also understanding of a few of the editorial decisions, for example the execution of the final five bar-long chords of the second suite’s Prelude. So different are these long, static chords to anything in any of the other suites, usual practise is to assume they are broken chords. Isserlis, however, has decided to play them as they are written, believing them to represent the Five Wounds of Christ. Unusual as the decision is, it does work.

    Aside from the religious interpretation, Isserlis’s tone and tempo feel absolutely right. The fact that these are dances is never forgotten, and there are none of the self-indulgent rubatos that characterise some recordings. Dances such as the Menuet from Suite No. 2 are light and flowing, with energy and drive. However, they always retain a courtly feel rather than tipping over into country-dance bounciness, as can so often happen. For the sixth suite, in the interests of sonority, Isserlis has opted to play his four-string cello rather than the five-stringed model the suite may have been originally written for. Despite the extra position work this decision meant, the technical pressure is never heard, leaving the listener free to be caught up in the emotional, joyful music.

    This recording can sit proudly on the shelf alongside the great recordings of Casals and Rostropovich. In fact, I may find myself picking it up as the favourite."

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    25 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    David Kenedy (cello) 
    SIGNUM SIGCD

     2005

     

     26

    Suites for Solo Cello

    You will be able to download a high quality version of this artwork when you purchase this album.

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Vito Paternoster (cello)

      9/28/03

     

    27 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Janos Starker - Bach: 6 Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

     

    Janos Starker

    Speakers Corner (Mercury Living Presence)

     

     

    28 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Truls Mørk
    Virgin Classics

     2005

     

    29 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Jian Wang (cello)
    Deutche Gramophone

     

     30

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Warner Classics 2004

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Alexander Kniazev
    Warner Classics 

     2005

    31 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    BACH, J.S.: Cello Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV 1007-1012 (Complete)

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Kliegel, Maria
    Naxos

     

     

    32 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    J S BACH: SOLO CELLO SUITES I-VI cover

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Colin Carr, cello
    GM 2031

     1994

     

    33 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    BACH, J.S.: Cello Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV 1007-1012

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Alexander Rudin, Cello
    Naxos

     

     

     34

    Suites for Solo Cello

    J.S. Bach-Cello Suites No.1-4 & 5

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Paul Tortelier
    Korean Exclusive Release

     

     

    35 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    LYNN HARRELL (cello)
    DECCA

     

     

     36

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Bach: Six Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Andreas von Wangenheim
    Arte Nova Classics

     (March 13, 2007)

     37

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Bach: The Six Suites for Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    André Navarra
    Calliope France

     1977

     

     38

    Suites for Solo Cello

     

     

     

     

     

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Paolo Pandolfo - Viola da Gamba
    Glossa

     2000

  •  

  • Bach's instrumental works have long been considered fair game for adaptation. In so doing performers have the excellent precedent of the composer, who throughout his life arranged both his own music and that of others. Lutenists (and guitarists) have found the six solo Cello Suites, BWV 1007-1012 particular fertile ground, but one would have thought that they would also have attracted the attention of gambists. As Pandolfo points out in his notes, historically it is their instrument that is closer in spirit to the suites than is the cello itself. Yet to the best of my knowledge, Pandolfo's is the first recording to feature all six in arrangements for bass viol.

    Pandolfo's most radical departure is his transposition of four of the suites, No. 1 from G to C, No. 3 from C to F, No. 4 from E flat to G, and No. 5 from C minor to D minor. Otherwise he remains pretty faithful to Bach's text, only filling out some of Bach's implied harmonies and occasionally transposing bass notes down an octave to take advantage of the viol's lower compass. More controversial are some of his slow tempos in the allemandes and, especially, sarabandes, where all links with the dance are often lost. Yet such is the extraordinary range of colour, dynamics and emotion Pandolfo brings to the music that criticism is readily disarmed. The arpeggiations that figure so strongly in the preludes are particularly well suited to the viol, and, dare I say it, sound better than they normally do on the cello, while Pandolfo's virtuoso playing of that of No. 6 is quite breathtaking. Pandolfo's adaptation is published by Glossa Music. Even if you have the suites in a cello version, this is a "must hear". BRIAN ROBINS

  • Source: http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/discography/2000/4905.php

  • -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The strings and bow of Pandolfo's viola da gamba allow for much greater possibilities than the cello at the soft end of the dynamic spectrum. Pandolfo uses this advantage to create contrast on repeats, which he usually takes (as in the very soft Gigue of the first suite, repeated in a louder and filled-out version). One of the most effective contrasts is in the sarabande of the fourth suite, where the first statement of both sections is in the most charming pizzicato (not marked in the score, of course, but I don't care). Another good example where the softness is an advantage is in the difficult allemande of the sixth suite, a page clouded with 32nd notes, rendered so lightly and effortlessly by Pandolfo, as is the similarly difficult gigue.

    Pandolfo calls his versions "adaptations," and he has changed quite a few parts of the score, often actually adding rather than taking away. Single notes often become thirds, and he tends to add chords where Bach could only imply them on the cello (lots of examples in the allemande of the third suite). It all sounds like it comes from the score. This is a highly ornamented performance, too, which is something I miss in all those repeats on many recordings. Years of playing Baroque music lead Pandolfo, quite appropriately, to double dot the French ouverture of the fifth suite prelude and to modify to notes inégales in that suite's courante. The only part of this recording that I could do without is the lengthy extra booklet that contains a text by Pandolfo, Un Libro Antico, an "imaginary dialogue between a violincello and a viola da gamba." The idea is interesting and has plenty of Baroque antecedents, but it is ultimately unnecessary.

    Source: http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2006/06/just-what-are-bach-cello-suites.html

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    "A fresh light cast on Bach’s suites through Pandolfo’s revelatory transcriptions for viola da gamba – superbly performed‚ too

    Tucked away in Glossa’s typically elegant packaging for this release is an imaginary dialogue‚ written by Paolo Pandolfo‚ in which a cello and a viola da gamba dispute the latter’s right to play Bach’s solo cello suites. The gamba’s point (and of course Pandolfo’s) is that‚ while on the one hand the suites can be seen as the beginning of one tradition‚ so they are also the end of another. Bach‚ who knew both the old world of the gamba and the new one of the cello‚ is peering into both at once‚ and by adapting the six suites for the gamba‚ Pandolfo contends that he is able to throw light onto that older world‚ to summon the ‘ancient footsteps’ which echo through the solo gamba repertoire and on into Bach’s bright new cello dawn. As he puts it‚ ‘I have let the innumerable suites to which the gamba has lent its voice during the span of its long life resound silently.’ This disc could actually serve as a useful demonstration of the relative strengths and weaknesses of gamba and cello. The gamba’s extra facility in spread chords is an obvious plus‚ and Pandolfo makes good use of it in his adaptations‚ adding a whole host of extra harmonies in the First Suite’s Gigue. Other comparisons‚ however‚ are more complex. The gamba is often the more agile instrument (Pandolfo adds quite a few extra twiddles)‚ but there are also times when it audibly requires more effort. Where the cello’s sound is bold and rounded with plenty of attack‚ the gamba’s is sparer and less assertive‚ so that in a movement such as the Sixth Suite Prelude the cello is a clear winner. Yet‚ though less powerful‚ the gamba has more resonance‚ sometimes leading to cloudier textures but at others offering up a gloriously rich sonority (as in the Gavotte of the Sixth Suite). In the end‚ though‚ it is the musicianship that matters‚ and fortunately Pandolfo’s is of the most eloquent kind. These are above all wonderfully supple readings full of thoughtfulness and imagination‚ but almost as impressive is the way in which he succeeds in casting these familiar pieces into the gamba’s poetic world of intimate self communion. This is most noticeable in some of those places where cellists are often most outgoing (for instance the upward climb towards the end of the First Suite’s Prelude or the rustic drones in the Third Suite’s Gigue)‚ but where Pandolfo retreats into inward reflectiveness. There are other glimpses of the old regime‚ too‚ for instance in the aristocratic way he turns the complex figuration of the Sixth Suite’s Allemande into fleet‚ quasi improvisatory flourishes. Yet this is more than a historical experiment‚ and there are moments when Pandolfo’s artistry stands on its own feet and hits you between the eyes: try the spectral Sarabande to the Fifth Suite‚ or the spellbinding pizzicatos of its counterpart from the Fourth. There is also an excellent hurdy gurdy impression in the Sixth Suite’s second Gavotte. Pandolfo’s fictional dialogue makes much of the fact that he is borrowing these suites from the cello‚ not stealing them. He does so to great effect‚ however‚ and such is his musical personality that one can quickly forget about transcriptions and lose oneself in the sound of Bach played‚ quite beautifully‚ on an instrument which Pandolfo rightly describes as ‘noble‚ proud‚ and at the same time fragile and vulnerable’.
    Reviewed: Gramophone 2001/10 "

  • Source: http://www.mininova.org/tor/1456131
  •  

  • 39 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    BACH: 6 Cello Suites / Bruno Cocset 2CD

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Bruno Cocset - Cello
    Alpha Productions

     2003

     "Bach composed the sixth suite for an instrument that is definitely not like the modern cello, an instrument with five strings, as indicated by the open-string annotation that precedes the score in the manuscript. What Bach had in mind was probably the violoncello piccolo, a small version of the cello that had a fifth, high melodic string. In listening to many performances of the suites, I have often thought that it would certainly be better to hear the sixth suite on the instrument Bach wanted rather than forcing it to work on the modern cello. French cellist Bruno Cocset, a former student of Christophe Coin, took this impulse to an extravagant degree, performing the six suites on four different instruments. He worked with luthier Charles Riché, advising him on choices of instruments on which modern reconstructions could be based, matching the sounds and set-up of each instrument to the demands of particular suites. The recording is apparently no longer available in the United States, but it can be acquired directly from Europe.

    The main problem with this recording is the sound, because the microphones were close enough to bring us every breath -- fortunately, Cocset does not sing along with himself, but he is a heavy sigher -- and the often distracting clack of Cocset's fingers on the fingerboard. If that sort of auditory intimacy with the performer bothers you, then you will not enjoy this disc. However, the performance captured here is like no other and has an immediacy to it that I find appealing.

    Bruno Cocset, cellist, image by CríticoThe other detail, albeit a minor one, that I like about this recording is that the suites are presented in numerical order, which is not always the case in complete recordings. With all that we know about the encyclopedic nature of Bach's collections, the order of pieces in the manuscript must be important (if for nothing else to preserve the ordering of the special dance pieces mentioned above). When listening to the entire set, I think it is better to hear them in the manuscript order or risk losing some of the artifice Bach intended.

    For the first and fifth suites, Cocset plays Charles Riché's 2000 copy of a cello built by Gasparo da Salo around the year 1600. Cocset chooses some of the fastest tempi I have heard and does so in a rhythmically vital way, which is exciting to hear. His attack, therefore, is often brusque -- no quasi-Romantic lines here -- and some of the notes come across more as tight-lipped growls than anything else. His ornamentation is fairly limited -- in general, Cocset is very faithful to the score -- but there are some nice changes on the repeats. This instrument makes a lovelier sound on the extensive prelude of the fifth suite, especially in the opening slow section. He has a nice touch on the fifth suite's sarabande, too, one of the most enigmatic dances in the whole set, although the uniform tone is a little gloomy. The gavottes pulse with earthy excitement."

  • Source: http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2006/06/just-what-are-bach-cello-suites.html

     40

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Gavriel Lipkind (cello)
    Edel Classics

     2006

     

    41 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Antonio Meneses (cello)
     AVIE AV0052

     2-5 June 2004

     

     42

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    NIKOLAUS D'HARNONCOURT - CELLO
    MHS OR B-272/3/4

     LP           CD

    1950'     1965

     

     43

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Robert Cohen (Cello)
    Brilliant

     1990

     

     44

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1008, 1010

    Toyohiko Satoh (Baroque  Lute)
    Channel Classics

     2001

     

    45 

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Bach, J.C. / Gendron - Bach: The 6 Cello Suites / Maurice Gendron CD Cover Art

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Maurice Gendron (Cello)
    Philips Duo

     1994

  •  

     46

    Suites for Solo Cello

    Gaspar Cassado Plays Bach Cello Suites

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Gaspar Cassado (cello)
    Vox 1996

     

    47

    Bach  Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Nicolas Deletaille (Cello)
    Contreclisse

     2006

  •  

    48

    Cello Suites

    BACH, J.S.: 6 Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007-1012

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Torleif  Thedeen 

     
    BIS 2000 2 CDs

     

    49

    Bach  Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Cello Solo BWV 1007-1012

    Csaba Onczay (Cello)
    Naxos

     1992

     

                                                   

    Dirck Hals (1591-1656): “The Solo”

    A Survey of Bach Suite Editions

    by Tim Janof
     

    "I recently read that there are over 80 editions of Bach's cello suites in existence with publication dates ranging from 1825 to the present. When reading this, my initial reaction was one of incredulity; what significantly different information could the 80th edition, for instance, have to offer over the previous 79 editions? Fortunately, I didn't stop there. I realized that this could be viewed as a great tribute to Bach and a testimonial to the beauty of his cello suites. So I decided to investigate some of these editions and get a glimpse at the insights of each player.

    The Bach Suites have always been a point of contention in the cello world. Unlike violinists and their solo violin works, we do not have a manuscript copy of Bach's cello suites in his own handwriting. The best we have are three manuscripts that may be hand-copied from the original: the Anna Magdalena Bach (Bach's second wife), the J.P. Kellner, and the J.J.H. Westphal manuscripts, the latter two being avid music collectors in Bach's time. Unfortunately, each manuscript contains errors, which provides plenty of fodder for intellectual debate.

    My challenge was having to decide which editions to investigate, or more expensively, to buy. Not having a vast financial resource to draw from, I decided to look at the editions that I see most often or ones that seemed intriguing. Inevitably, there will be somebody out there who says something like, "Hey, what about the Bazelaire edition?!" Sorry, when you have over 80 to choose from, you're bound to miss somebody's favorite.

    The following are the editions, or more accurately the editors, that I chose to study:

    Hugo Becker
    Diran Alexanian
    Pierre Fournier
    Casals-Foley
    Janos Starker
    August Wenzinger
    Dimitry Markevitch

    The necessary limitation of this article is that, in order to avoid a long and an even more tedious read, I am forced to make some generalizations about each edition; with 36 movements to compare in each edition, this article could get voluminous in a hurry. Though my general statements cannot do justice to the nuances of each edition, I hope that I have succeeded in isolating each editor's approach sufficiently to be able to evaluate them meaningfully. When we get through them, I hope that the reader will be able to make a more informed decision about which edition to buy, and perhaps which to leave on the shelf.

    Hugo Becker (1911)

    Hugo Becker was a product of the pre-Casals age. During his formative years, it seems that the Bach Suites were regarded primarily as study material for students. In fact, some editions were titled Bach Suites or Etudes[1]. On the rare occasion that a Bach cello work was performed, only a movement or two was ever heard at a time, never an entire suite. As a result of this general attitude, very little was known about Bach, Baroque music, or the performance practice of the times.

    Hugo Becker also came from the time of pre-Casals cello technique. I am fortunate to have a recording of Hugo Becker playing. Every time I listen to it, I praise Casals for putting an end to Becker's and his predecessors kind of technique, which employs the "old fashioned" practice of repeatedly sliding between notes (slide up, slide down, slide up, slide down). Casals developed the technique of hopping, stretching, shifting between half-steps, and anything else to avoid the distracting audible shifts. With all this in mind, Hugo Becker's edition gives us a fascinating window into another era of performance practice and technique.

    A quick look at his tempi betrays a possible lack of knowledge about the nature of each movement; that each, except the preludes, is based on a dance form. For example, he counts all of the Sarabandes in six beats per measure (ie. eighth notes) instead of three beats per measure, which is now known to be a fundamental characteristic of a Sarabande. Also, some of his tempi are so fast, that they prevent a degree of expression that we, rightly or wrongly, now take for granted; perhaps he too was affected by the general attitude that the Suites were good etude material.

    Looking at his fingerings, an old-fashioned approach becomes apparent. He often opts to go up the D string instead of going to the A string in first position, the former a more romantic practice. Sometimes, this is done because he is looking for the more inward timbre of the D string, but other times it seems as if he is avoiding the open A string at all costs. We now know that the open A string, when treated with care, can be a gorgeous sound.

    There are many suggested uses of the same finger for adjacent notes, resulting in potentially audible slides. See the typical example from the Menuet I from the first Suite and note the 1-1 and the 4-4 fingerings:

    This fingering is considered "old-fashioned." One usually sees 4-1 instead of the 1-1 and 4-1 instead of the 4-4. Today, assuming someone uses Hugo Becker's fingering, he or she is careful to hide the shifts. But, if one listens to Hugo Becker play, he doesn't even try. All shifts are audible. Thank you Pablo Casals!

    This edition, though interesting from an historical perspective, does not reflect the advances in cello technique or of later research regarding the Baroque dance forms. It is curious that it is still sold today.

    Diran Alexanian (1929)

    And then came the great Pablo Casals. What is remarkable about Casals was that, though he still lived in a time when little was yet known about Baroque music or its performance practice, his magnificent musical instincts often led him to play Bach in a manner that has now been proven to be consistent with musicological research. With Pablo Casals, the performance practice of Bach and cello technique would never be the same again.

    Diran Alexanian was a protege of Casals and therefore his work reflects the influence of his teacher. Alexanian was obviously a brilliant man. His edition is the great analytical edition, which is still used throughout the world. He analyzed the function of each note and its relationship to its neighbors and to the larger phrase. In order to communicate his ideas, he developed a curious notation that takes getting used to, but ultimately gives one greater insight into the Suites. See a typical example below:

    The extension of the sixteenth note bars indicate which group each note belongs to musically.

    In this edition, we see Casals' influence on cello technique. The frequent use of hops and stretches are employed to avoid audible shifts. See a typical example from the E-flat Prelude:

    Notice that it is fingered 1-4-1-4-1, which requires hops and stretches of the hand. This fingering, pioneered by Casals, was considered quite a revolutionary fingering in its day. Compare it with Hugo Becker's fingering:

    Though Hugo Becker's fingering is good, Casals' and Alexanian's fingering is better from a musical point of view, though much more difficult. Interestingly, many cellists, such as Janos Starker, use Becker's fingering.

    Pierre Fournier (1972)

    Pierre Fournier seems to have focused his energies into the production of a smooth and beautiful sound (what nerve!). Perhaps, because he was more of a product of the recording age, he chose this approach since it sounds "better" on recordings. To accomplish this, he tended to slur more notes together, resulting in a more even tone. See the following example from the Third Suite Prelude:

    Now compare it with the example below from an edition based on the Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript copy of the suites:

    Notice Fournier's very generous use of slurs. The advantage of Fournier's slurring is that it is easier to produce a lush and smooth sound. The disadvantage is that the overall energy level of the performance is reduced since fast notes on separate bows sound more lively. It is hard to play with grit and energy if everything is slurred.

    Fournier also has some unusual ideas when playing the suites. For example, look at the fingering from the Prelude of the G Major Suite:

    Why does he feel it necessary to alternate a fingered A with an open A string? The open A string is gorgeous here. By changing the timbres in such a short space of time, he creates a disturbance that detracts from the overall line.

    One other curious trend that appears in the editions starting with the Casals era and before the "authentic" movement came on strong, is that none of the editions show the 5th Suite played with the Scordatura tuning, ie. with the A string tuned down to a G, as Bach originally wrote it. All the editions only include the 5th suite with the normal cello tuning. Surprisingly, Hugo Becker's edition provides both versions of the 5th Suite, while others, who should know better than Mr. Becker, chose not to play it as originally written. Fournier is among the guilty on this issue. Perhaps this is because, when played with scordatura, one usually plays from music and not from memory, which doesn't look as impressive on stage.

    Casals-Foley (1986)

    This is a fascinating and yet troubling edition. This edition was not created by Pablo Casals. It was created by Madeline Foley, another Casals disciple, who must have taken copious notes from the Master. Since Casals always left himself room for spontaneity in his playing, the fingerings and bowings in this edition cannot be considered as his, in the strict sense. He often changed fingerings and bowings to suit the moment. Therefore, don't even bother comparing this edition with his recording of the Bach Suites; they are quite different.

    Where this edition comes in handy is for musical ideas. The music is heavily edited from a musical standpoint. Crescendos, ritardandos, and other plain English reminders such as "Sing!" or "Move ahead" are prevalent. Also, the "important notes," as Casals called them, are indicated with a tenuto line over them. These are the notes that Casals tended to subtly lengthen to emphasize their importance.

    When music is edited as heavily as it is in this edition, it can be dangerous. It is important to remember that these markings are not Bach's; Bach rarely provided any markings except for the very occasional dynamic. Therefore, we must be conscious that when we play from this edition, we will be interpreting an interpretation. And with a strong musical personality like Casals, it is too easy to exaggerate his ideas and sound ridiculous; there are some things that only an artist like Casals could pull off.

    Janos Starker (1971)

    This is a very cellistic edition. Starker seems to have spent a lot of time solving the cellistic difficulties of the Bach Suites. "I thought of most of the things that troubles all other cellists. And then I solved it in a way."[2] To do this, he developed bowings that are more comfortable and yet still convey his musical ideas. He also, when necessary, changed some notes that were pretty much impossible play well anyway. For instance, see the example below from the Sarabande of the D Major or 6th Suite:

    Now compare it with the Anna Magdalena manuscript edition:

    Note how the B-natural has been changed to a G, making the passage much less difficult. This naturally raises the question of whether this shows a lack of respect for Bach or just makes him more playable and realistic for struggling cellists. I'll leave that issue to the reader.

    The danger of this edition is that, if one does not have another edition that contains the original notes, one could not know that Bach actually wrote something different.

    August Wenzinger (1950)

    The Wenzinger edition is based on the manuscript by the hand of Mary Magdalena Bach. His edition is the most honest edition since all markings not in the original manuscript are indicated as such: changed slurs are indicated with dashed lines, added dynamics are shown in parentheses, all corrected notes are footnoted. This edition allows the player to start from as close to the Anna Magdalena manuscript as possible. This minimizes the layering of interpretations that occurs with other editions.

    Unfortunately, the original Anna Magdalena manuscript is full of errors. Her manuscript contains over 70 errors such as incorrect notes and measures. And her slurs are the most carelessly written of the three known manuscripts.[3] When Wenzinger created this edition, the other two manuscripts were not yet discovered. In spite of this, Wenzinger's still stands tall in the sea of editions.

    (4/3/00 Update: Anner Bylsma, in his book, Bach, the Fencing Master, suggests that the slurs in the Magdalena manuscript are actually very readable. He believes that editors have traditionally not agreed with what they see, so they have declared the manuscript as "unreadable" and "full of mistakes," and have changed slurs to be more in line with 19th century ideas on bowing, i.e. bowing sequences identically, starting each measure on a downbow, etc. Anner Bylsma's book calls into question the accuracy of even this fine edition. I recommend that you check out the manuscript for yourself and draw your own conclusions. For an edition where ALL slurs have been deleted so that you can create your own bowings, try the Vandersall edition.)

    Dimitry Markevitch (1964)

    This is one of the most interesting Bach Suite editions I have seen. Markevitch, a noted cello scholar and author, based his edition on the three available manuscripts: Anna Magdalena, Kellner, and Westphal. It has a very informative preface that discusses the research into the origins of the suites and performance practice issues, and represents some of the latest research into the Bach Suites. His edition is also very clean and free of fingerings, except in the most difficult passages, which is quite refreshing.

    Showing his knowledge of the Baroque dance forms, most Sarabandes start with an up-bow so that the second beat gets the required emphasis with the naturally stronger down-bow.

    However, he seems to have an unusual propensity for starting upbeats with a downbow, or starting pieces with a bowing opposite to the intuitive bowing. For instance, he starts the D Major Suite with an up-bow:

    I must confess that this doesn't make much sense to me and that many of his ideas seem self-consciously eccentric. But I am grateful to him for making me at least stop and think about possibilities that I have never considered.

    Conclusion

    So, which edition or editions should one buy? If you buy nothing else, you must have the Wenzinger edition since it is the most honest edition I have seen. The Casals-Foley edition is useful for musical ideas. The Starker edition helps solve many technical difficulties of the Suites. And the Markevitch is useful from a scholarly point of view and is mind-expanding.

    But we must recognize that no edition, if studied, survives unmarked by the player. The instant we put a mark on the music, we have started the process of creating our own edition. In order to stay as close to Bach as possible, it then makes sense to start with an edition which is as close to the original as possible. If we don't, we will be interpreting an interpretation, which may have already been an interpretation of another interpretation, or previous edition, and so on. Though there are "only" 80 or so published editions, there really is one edition per cellist.

    P.S. Number "81" is about to come out: the Neue Bach-Ausgabe edition. A fourth manuscript by an unknown copyist has been recently discovered. I guess, they will never stop.

    P.P.S. You can bypass all of this and use the Vandersall edition, a wonderfully clean version in which all articulations (i.e. slurs) have been eliminated, leaving only the notes. It is also devoid of fingerings. Then you can create your own bowings and fingerings from scratch. What a great idea!

  • Source: http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/jsbach.html

    cellists gifts, cellists gift, cellists merchandise, gifts for cellists, gift for cellists

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  •  

  • Baroque Dance and the Bach Cello Suites

     

    by Tim Janof

  • A statement made by Nathaniel Rosen about the Bach Cello Suites has been bugging me for years:

    "People often talk about the notion that these pieces are dance movements. They're not dance movements! They are works for unaccompanied cello which have, with the exception of the Preludes, titles of dance movements." 1

    Having never seen a Baroque dance, how could I know if this statement is correct? I've read a couple of books on Baroque dance, but, like learning to play the cello, a one can't get an intuitive sense of such a kinesthetic subject from a book.

    As luck would have it, I recently discovered that Anna Mansbridge, a Baroque dance specialist, had moved to my hometown, Seattle. She hails from the United Kingdom, where she studied for many years with teachers foremost in the dance profession. She holds degrees from Bedford College (UK) and Mills College in California. She has taught and performed Baroque dance in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, including Norway, Sweden, and Croatia. A resident of Seattle since 1998, she returns to Europe regularly to stage operas and teach early music courses. In 1995 she co-founded Footwork OffLimits, a dance company that blends early and modern dance genres. In Seattle, where she teaches Baroque dance, she is the artistic director of Seattle Early Dance and an artist-in-residence for the Washington State Arts Commission (2001-2003). I could finally pose my many questions to a Baroque dance specialist and watch her dance allemandes, courantes, bourrées, etc.

    Anna Mansbridge (photo by William Stickney)

    Today's Baroque dancers, like instrumentalists, struggle with the fact that there is no way of knowing for sure how people danced in the Baroque era. They can't pop in a video and watch dancers from the 1700's. They too have to rely on treatises that were written at that time. In addition to the usual sources that musicians rely upon -- C.P.E. Bach, Muffat, Rameau, etc. -- they have the good fortune of having rather detailed books that were written by Baroque dance masters, such as the one by Kellom Tomlinson, called The Art of Dancing, written in 1735. Rather florid descriptions of the various dance moves are provided in these books, in addition to diagrams of the various choreographies. See Example 1, which depicts a choreography of a courante. The steps are shown for a pair of dancers.

    Example 1 -- A choreography of a courante, from "la Bourgogne", Paris, 1700
    Choreography by Louis Pécour, notated by Raoul Auger Feuillet.
    2

    It was refreshing to learn from Mansbridge that the Baroque dance world is as full of controversy about how something should be danced as the cello world is about how the Bach Cello Suites should be played. After a performance in Belgium, an early dance expert in the audience once haughtily confronted her, "Why do you plié after you jump?" Dancers argue just as passionately as musicians do about what can be considered "correct" performance practice.

    It seems that steadiness of pulse is one point of contention in the dance world, and this goes back to the Baroque era, if not before. Dance Master Kellom Tomlinson wrote in 1735,

    "… it may perhaps be objected and at first View with great Show of Reason, that the Time in Dancing is various and liable to be changed to faster or slower, according to the Performer's Fancy…" [italics by Kellom Tomlinson] 3

    This is an 'out' that dancers sometimes cite when they feel that they have to justify a spontaneous arhythmic outburst. But Kellom Tomlinson, who clearly prefers a steady pulse, goes on to say in the same paragraph:

    "This caused the Ancients to say, the Gods gave a Genius to Music and Dancing; and it is of that Importance in the latter as to render it impossible to please without Keeping Time, nor is it to be called Dancing without it." [italics by Kellom Tomlinson] 4

    This leads me to conclude, perhaps not surprisingly, that maintaining a steady pulse when playing the Bach Suites is more in keeping with the practice of the Baroque era, if one were to play these as if they are dances (not to mention that, practically speaking, it's extremely difficult to dance to music that doesn't have a steady pulse). The fact that we are playing a work for a solo instrument does not mean that we should suddenly throw out the notion of playing in time. Of course, I choose to cite the latter part of the aforementioned paragraph to justify my own point of view.

    In a handout that Mansbridge uses in her Baroque dance classes, she writes:

    "Passions at the French Court during the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries were controlled by reason. The passions were treated with infinite delicacy, and not allowed to move in excess. The French admired symmetry and control, harmony and balance. Strict rules of etiquette governed aristocratic society, emulating such qualities as reason, logic, and order."

    This description very accurately describes how Mansbridge dances. Though I get the sense that there is a passionate human being dancing before me, especially in certain Sarabandes, her moves and demeanor are very regal, and her feelings are expressed coyly with poise and elegance. It's difficult not to be transported into an imaginary royal court as she steps around the room. With this new understanding, I can't help but wonder whether it is inappropriate to play the Bach Suites in a passionate, red-blooded manner, like so many do. Perhaps, if one is striving to play in a more Baroque style, a more controlled, refined approach is best.

    In order to get a sense of the various movements in the Bach Cello Suites from a dancer's perspective, I, along with my cello, met Mansbridge at a dance studio. She danced as I played through each of the movements (except the Preludes), so that I could get a sense of their style and tempos.

    What became clear is that the Bach Cello Suites really aren't meant to be danced to, though there are some movements that work better than others; the sarabandes, bourrées, and minuets usually work the best. A true Baroque dance piece has an obvious 'tune,' a clear sense of pulse (i.e. the music has a strong beat) and clear, regular phrasing, usually eight bars in length. Mansbridge said that "dance music in the Baroque era tends to be very predictable." Not many of the movements in the Bach Cello Suites meet these requirements. Bach used the dance forms as mere starting points and, through his boundless imagination, he stretched and molded them to suit his own fancy.

    Truls Mørk said in his 1999 ICS interview:

    "I remember studying these dance forms with a Baroque dance specialist. I discovered that the actual dance tempos were so slow that they would be unplayable on the cello. Nobody could dance to the Bach Cello Suites as they are traditionally played because the cellist's tempos would be much too fast. I'm not sure that it's appropriate to think of the Bach Suites in terms of dances."

    You will see later in this article that this statement may be partly true, if one follows Mansbridge's advice, since it depends on which dance form is under discussion. With Mansbridge, the dance tempos were often faster, not slower as Mørk suggests, than those used by cellists, even today's baroque cellists.

    The most problematic suite from a dance perspective is the c minor Suite. In this Suite, Bach unleashes his creative genius and, at times, stretches the dance forms almost to the point of them being unrecognizable. Mansbridge said that "if the Fifth Suite were to be danced to, the dance would have to be modernized in order for it to work in certain places. This Suite would be a fun challenge for a choreographer."

    So let's go through each of the dances. Note that the tempi mentioned below are what feels right to Mansbridge. Tempo is a point contention in the dance world, so I'd use her suggestions as guides for the basic "feel" of the dances, not as strict doctrine.

    Allemandes

    The scholarly book, Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach, by Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, has only limited discussion of the allemande because "by Bach's time they no longer reflected a particular dance form. In a study of allemandes of this period, [the authors] discovered neither clear choreographic roots nor distinguishable recurring rhythmic patterns; nor did [they] find any choreographies." According to Mansbridge, "there aren't many allemandes in the notation. There is one from 1702 that is a duet for a man and a woman. There's another one called the 'Branle d'Allemande,' which is from 1715, but there aren't actually very many otherwise." But she does have experience with the allemandes of composers other than Bach, "Bach's allemandes feel very different from dance allemandes. When I've heard recordings of Bach's instrumental allemandes, they've sounded nothing like the allemandes that I know!"

    Before I played the G Major Allemande for her, she counted out a typical Allemande tempo of around 100 beats per minute (quarter notes). After I started, she immediately said, "I can't dance that. The music is too jumpy." There was no tempo that would solve this for her. Bach had completely broken with the traditional danced allemande form.

    I then played the d minor Allemande for her. Again, at a tempo of around 100 beats per minute (quarter notes), she found her stride, but, again, felt that the music was too irregular to be appropriate for dancing. Bach also completely deviates from the dance form when he inserts the cadenza-like passage in measure 9 (see Example 2), which is great as an instrumental effect, but not great for dancing.

    Example 2 -- d minor Allemande (measure 9)

    At a tempo of 100 (eighth notes), the C Major Allemande came to life for her. The piece has a clear sense of beat, so this is the best of all the Allemandes from a dance perspective. She hastened to point out some irregular and overlapping phrasing that would have to be accounted for if the piece were choreographed (i.e. measure 2, third beat, see Example 3). Again, regular 8-bar phrases are more standard for dancing.

    Example 3 -- C Major Allemande (measure 2)

    The E-flat Allemande has too many runs to be true dance piece. In order to make it dance-able, I had to accent each quarter note so that the music had a crystal-clear beat. The piece also lacks the clear melodic character that true Baroque dance music has. This Allemande is clearly more of an instrumental work.

    I started the c minor Allemande, but it was quickly determined that the music felt too unstructured from a dance perspective. Similarly, the D Major Allemande, didn't stand a chance. "It's lovely, but it wouldn't work for baroque dance. There are lots of possibilities with modern choreography, however."

    Courantes

    We next went through the Courantes. I was immediately taken aback by the slow tempo she requested. It turns out that Courantes were considered slow dances. In 1725, Pierre Rameau wrote that the courante is a "very solemn dance with a nobler style and grander manner than the others, is very varied in its figures, and has dignified and distinguished movements." This is corroborated in Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach, "The French Courante was variously described as serious and solemn, noble and grand, hopeful, majestic, and earnest." 7 This is a far cry from the more upbeat character with which courantes are usually played by cellists.

    Her tempo for the G Major Courante was approximately 56 beats per minute (quarter notes). The piece starts out very nicely from a dance perspective at this tempo, but it quickly becomes too instrumental with the many eighth notes and sixteenth-note runs and sequences. This notion continues throughout all the suites, except for the C Major Suite. The C Major Courante is composed entirely of eighth notes, a regularity that works very well from a dance perspective, especially if the quarter-note beats are emphasized (i.e. notes inégale).

    Since the Courantes sound entirely wrong to my ears at this slow tempo, I did a little more digging into the literature and discovered that Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach calls these movements "Correntes" instead of "Courantes." They define Correntes:

    "The early eighteenth century Italian corrente is a virtuoso piece for violin or keyboard. It usually consists continuous elaboration in eighth or sixteenth notes over a bass in fast triple meter, with simple textures, slow harmonic rhythm, and phrases of varying lengths…. Techniques of elaboration include arpeggiation, sequential repetition, two melodic parts combined into a single line, figures resembling an Alberti bass, and passage-work covering several octaves." 8

    This definition seems to fit most of the "Courantes" in the Bach Cello Suites. The only true Courante, according to Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach is in the c minor Suite. The c minor Courante does sound pretty good at Mansbridge's tempo. Interestingly, all of the known Bach Cello Suite source manuscripts label these movements as "Courantes," while the first known published edition (Norblin, 1825) labels them all, including the one in c minor, as "Correntes."

    Sarabandes

    We then went through the Sarabandes, which usually work well as dance pieces, since they have a clear sense of pulse and regular phrase lengths. She has actually used the E-flat Sarabande in dance programs. Her tempo was faster than I'm used to, approximately 72 beats per minute (quarter notes). At this tempo, it's more difficult for the cello to maintain a rock steady pulse because of the many chords in these movements, especially the D Major Sarabande. She reminded me that Sarabandes are considered the second slowest movements in dance, the slowest being Courantes. The one that wasn't good dance material was the c minor Sarabande, which Mansbridge found "too weird" from a dance perspective. I can well imagine playing the c minor Sarabande for a Baroque royal court and watching their puzzled looks as they try to figure out how to dance to it.

    The second beat should not be consistently emphasized in Sarabandes. According to Mansbridge, this is apparent "in the choreographies for the sarabande, where not all the steps lend themselves to emphasizing the second beat." Instead, the emphasis should vary from measure to measure, which greatly adds to the musical interest of the piece, i.e. one-TWO-three, one-TWO-three, ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three, or however the music suggests it. This should become clear when one looks at Bach's Sarabandes in the Cello Suites. Emphasizing the second beat in each measure would sound a little odd.

    Minuets

    Our discussion of minuets, bourrées, gavottes, and gigues yielded fewer surprises, so we went quickly through these movements. Minuets are counted in 6 in the dance world -- not in eighth notes, but in quarter notes over two measures. Her tempo was around 126 beats per minute (quarter notes). According to Mansbridge, there is some controversy about the correct tempo in minuets. "Some theorists in the 18th century describe them as gay and brisk and other ones say they should be slower and majestic." The minuets in the Cello Suites generally work very well for dance because "they are quite symmetrical in phrase length. The cellist doesn't have long drawn-out chords so the pulse is usually not lost."

    Bourrées

    Bach's bourrées work well for dance and Mansbridge has used them in her performances. Her tempo was around 96 beats per minute (quarter notes). Of the C Major Bourrée, she said, "It's got that nice chirpy tune and even phrasing." The first E-flat Bourrée "has a lovely echo. If I were to choreograph that one, I'd use a duet and have dancers echoing each other."

    Interestingly, the 1825 Norblin edition calls the C Major and E-flat Major Bourrées "Loures," which none of the manuscripts do, nor does Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach. My music dictionary describes the loure as "a 17th dance ... in moderate 6/4 time and with dotted rhythms leaning heavily on the strong beats," 9 which doesn't seem to fit the bourrées in the cello suites.

    Gavottes

    The Gavottes have a full upbeat, which is typical of this dance form. Mansbridge's tempo was approximately 76 beats per minute (half-notes). The second D Major Gavotte is particularly challenging from a dance perspective because the beat is less clear and because it uses purely instrumental effects, like in measure 13 (see Example 4), which would confuse the unsuspecting dancer.

    Example 4 -- D Major Gavotte (measure 13)

    Gigues

    Her tempo for the Gigues was around 96 beats per minute (dotted quarter notes), which made the D Major Gigue incredibly challenging to play (as if it isn't challenging at a slower tempo!). The gigues have a strong sense of a pulse, but they often lapse into purely instrumental works (i.e. measure 21 of the C Major Gigue, see Example 5), so they are not ideal for dancing. Modern choreographic elements would be needed if the gigues were to be danced to.

    Example 5 -- C Major Gigue (measure 21)

    Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach further reinforces the notion that the gigues are not meant to be danced to. They divide gigues into three subcategories -- the French Gigue, Giga I, and Giga II -- the latter two clearly being instrumental instead of dance music. They refer to the c minor Gigue as a "French Gigue," of which they write:

    "The most distinctive feature of this characteristically French dance is its graceful lilt, produced by the almost constant use of the "sautillant" figure: [dotted eighth, sixteenth, eight, see Example 6]." 10

    Example 6 -- c minor gigue

    The E-flat Major Gigue falls in the Giga I category, which "are soloistic excursions for virtuoso performers … little information is available on the performance style of Giga I…." The G Major, d minor, C Major, and D Major are referred to as "Giga II's," which are "Bach's most complex, exploratory, and challenging gigues… They are complex because there is another metric level below the tripleness."

    Conclusion

    After going through all the dance movements with Anna Mansbridge, I determined that Nathaniel Rosen was basically right. These suites really aren't meant to be danced to, because Bach used the dance forms as mere starting points in his compositional process. As Mansbridge said,

    "Bach wrote these amazing works in the early 18th century, so he was just very, very innovative. It's fascinating what he did with the forms. I can imagine Bach sitting down and saying, for example, 'That's an allemande; now I'm going to make this an allemande too! I'm going to ignore the rules for writing an allemande and do something completely different. That's how his music sounds to me. I also think that Bach's Cello Suites are much more complicated than the Baroque music that was specifically written for dance, and that the tempos should be approached with this in mind."

    The question we must ask ourselves is whether this new understanding of Baroque dance is going to change how we play these Suites? Do we play the Courantes like true Courantes (i.e. slower) or do we play them faster, like Correntes? Do we play Sarabandes much faster, forcing those beautiful rolling chords to be more 'in time'? Or do we continue to play them in a more ponderous tempo? Do we continue to infuse the Suites with gut-wrenching emotion, or do we remain somewhat distant, allowing 'Reason' to rule over our 'Passions.' I'll leave these questions to you.

    ENDNOTES

    1. Statement made in Nathaniel Rosen's 1996 Internet Cello Society Featured Artist Interview with Tim Janof.
    2. Louis Pecour, Recueil de Danses and La Nouvelle Galliarde, (Paris, 1700), Gregg International Publishers Limited, London, 1970, p. 47.
    3. 'The Art of Dancing' explained by reading and figures; whereby the manner of performing the steps is made easy by a new and familiar method: being the original work, first designed in the year 1724, and now published by Kellom Tomlinson, dancing master....London: the author, 1735.
    4. Ibid.
    5. Statement made in Truls Mørk's 1999 Internet Cello Society Featured Artist Interview with Tim Janof.
    6. Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1991, p. 34.
    7. Ibid. p. 115.
    8. Ibid. p. 128.
    9. Don Michael Randel, Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978, p. 281.
    10. Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1991, p. 145.
    11. Ibid. p. 159-160.
    12. Ibid. p. 164.

    11/02/02\

  • Sourcehttp://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/mansbridge/mansbridge.htm

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  • Conversation with  Anner Bylsma
     
    by Tim Janof

  •        

    Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma received his first lessons from his father and concluded his instruction with Carel van Leeuwen Boonkamp at The Hague Conservatory, when he was awarded the Prix d’excellence. In 1959 he won a prestigious first prize from the Pablo Casals Concours in Mexico. He was solo cellist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam from 1962 to 1968. He performs regularly around the world as a soloist and recitalist, and has recorded for Das Alte Werk, Telefunken, Decca, Harmonia Mundi, Seon, RCA, Phillips, and EMI. Anner Bylsma is perhaps most famous for his interpretations of the music of Baroque and Early Classical periods. He recently published a book on the Bach Solo Cello Suites, entitled “Bach, The Fencing Master - Reading aloud from the first three cello suites,” where he discusses his analysis of the Anna Magdalena manuscript and issues related to performing Bach (www.ponticello.com/bylsma).

    TJ: I have read several times that you don’t like the word “authenticity.” What’s wrong with it?

    AB: This term is used as a weapon by some to exclude fellow musicians, and as a marketing tool by record companies to help sell records, even when the performance is not "authentic" at all. This word actually means whatever one wants it to mean, and is mostly a great way of posturing: “My compromise is the best compromise, and all others are wrong!” Let us not forget that people come to concerts for musical enjoyment, not because they espouse certain musical/political views.

    To play as Bach did is impossible, as it is with any other good composer. It helps to study the instruments as they were at the time and how they were played, but it will never sound as it did then. And if it accidentally did, we would not recognize it as being such. This study, however, will deliver unexpected moments of an “authentic” feeling, which can be quite an inspiration. You must admit that the current fashion of “authenticity” has brought us many beauties, and has made well-known pieces sound new.

    There is a much better word than “authentic.” It is the word “true.” Somebody plays something and it rings true. It is meant honestly, comes from the heart, and gives pleasure. It's more of a feeling that you must be playing the way the piece was meant to be played. But this feeling never stays with you, since it is very ephemeral.

    TJ: Does a “true” performance mean that you have a feeling that you are playing the way it was done in Bach’s day, or just that you are playing in a way that feels right for you? I can imagine Yo-Yo Ma or Casals thinking that their way of playing feels right to them.

    AB: It depends, of course, but let’s say “true” playing is the way that Bach would have liked it. This will cover many approaches. I wouldn’t want us all to play exactly the same way.

    TJ: So you agree that there are many approaches that Bach may have liked?

    AB: I don't think this discussion will get us anywhere, since Bach isn’t here to defend himself. But I must say that it's very hard for me to agree with what I used to do, and with what most cellists do today. What I tried to do in my book is look at what the manuscripts actually say, instead of trying to guess what Bach may or may not have meant, or assume that Mrs. Bach didn't play a string instrument and therefore threw in meaningless slurs. Taking a fresh look at the manuscripts has given me so many new ways of thinking about the bow arm that, at the moment, I’m kind of a zealot. Next year I may be different, but, for now, I’m trying to play exactly what’s written, which is very difficult, both technically and musically.

    TJ: Casals once said “Bach has every feeling - lovely, tragic, dramatic, poetic, always soul and heart and expression. How he enters into the most profound of ourselves. Let us find that Bach.” Do you think Casals found more meaning in the music than Bach intended?

    AB: Before I respond to this, let me just say that I have a profound respect for the great cellists of our past and present. Who am I to denounce the greatest players of our day, who give pleasure to millions of people? I am not a musicologist. I have learned to play the cello well (I've had good teachers), and I love reflecting upon Bach and others. Please understand that, though I may disagree with some of my colleagues of the past and present, my disagreement is a good-natured one.

    Having said this, these utterances from Casals tell me more about the fellow who plays than the fellow who composes. The problem with a statement like Casals' is that I probably find these feelings in different notes than he did. He was an incredible cellist and artist, but I don't think he was a great scientist of cello playing or of music. This was demonstrated, for instance, by his approach in sonatas, where the pianist was treated more like an accompanist than an equal partner.

    TJ: Someone recently wrote that Casals actually ruined the Bach suites since he created generations of imitators with his powerful personality. Do you agree?

    AB: Any great personality can ruin the suites for you if you have no personality of your own. But that is not his fault. I too was very influenced by Casals in my younger days. I used to have a recording of him playing Mendelssohn’s "Song Without Words.” Years later I needed an encore and I began working on this same piece, but I just couldn’t get it right. I thought “What's the matter with me?” But then I realized that I was trying to recreate the atmosphere of his recording, which is impossible. I had to find my own way.

    TJ: Do you think that Bach composed the suites while deeply connected with his emotions and soul? Or do you think he may have rattled them off like a mathematician?

    AB: This is a question more appropriate for composers of the late Classical or Romantic eras than of the Baroque era. The world in Bach's time was much harder than for most of us in western civilization, not including today’s third world countries. In Bach's day, the average life expectancy was 30 years. So it is highly unlikely that Bach ever wrote a piece when one of his family members or one of his friends wasn’t dying. And yet he wrote much joyful music. So, there isn’t necessarily a connection between the mood of his pieces and his emotional state while writing them.

    Composers didn’t reflect their emotions directly in their music until Beethoven’s time. A Baroque composer was capable of writing a sorrowful piece when he was in a good mood, or writing a happy piece when he was in a sorrowful mood. Composers wrote music because that was what they were paid to do, not because they needed an emotional outlet.

    Does it really matter whether you write down a feeling you had yesterday or one that you have today? With a genius like Bach, it’s still the same feeling, isn’t it?

    TJ: Arto Noras, in a recent interview, lamented that “the normal way to approach a composition is not enough for some reason when playing Bach. I am not allowed by some groups to apply all my knowledge and experience of music making and perform Bach the way I like it.” As a result, he no longer performs Bach. It seems that the Authentic movement has ruined Bach for some modern cellists.

    AB: I would love to hear Mr. Noras play Bach. I hope he never gives up playing these wonderful pieces. But when playing Bach, one must make some very difficult choices. Either you play Bach the way you’ve always done it and heard it, or you try to play it the way Bach may have played in his day. In some ways it’s much easier to play Bach in the modern way, since you don’t have to think as much. I have chosen the latter approach and am very happy that I did, since I have enjoyed the discovery process, like an archeologist.

    TJ: Another cellist once told me that we make too much of the fact that the Bach suites are composed of dances. He said that, since most dances weren't danced in Bach's time, it doesn't make sense to think of them as such. What do you think of this approach?

    AB: I think he's wrong. Yes, many of them weren’t danced in Bach’s day, but they were composed in the style of the particular dances. I'm sure that Bach's approach was very clear when he performed these pieces, a sarabande sounded like a sarabande and a courante sounded like a courante. I don’t think he was trying to fool anybody. One can't get away with such sloppy reasoning so easily.

    TJ: Do you always play the repeats when you perform the Bach Suites? Janos Starker would, for example, only repeat the first half if the second half was twice as long.

    AB: I agree. My first priority is to not bore my audience. If I sense that the audience is getting restless, I will sometimes skip a repeat. I am not there for my pleasure, I am there for the crowd’s pleasure. After all, they are paying to listen to me. If they don’t enjoy themselves, they may not come back.

    TJ: I find this surprising. My impression is that your first priority is your search for a deeper understanding of the music. Are you really more of a crowd-pleaser?

    AB: No. But my quest for understanding the music is my business. Most people come to hear me for entertainment, and because they may yearn for a richer understanding of Bach in their own way.

    TJ: How do you feel about people who play the normal tuning version of the Fifth Suite, instead with the scordatura tuning? Even many world class soloists play the "normal" version?

    AB: I have heard it played beautifully many times with either tuning. Apart from the "color," the difference is only a couple of notes. Of course, I play with two g-strings, which was the normal tuning in Bologna in the second half of the seventeenth century.

    I do have other issues, though, like where does the slur in the first bar start, on A? I would love it if it did, because the marvelous chord in the second bar would come on an up-bow. But then what do we do with the slurs in the rest of that bar? Is one of them a correction?

    TJ: Many cellists today perform the lute version of the Fifth Suite. When I ask cellists why they do this, they usually say something like “Bach wrote it, so what’s the problem?” Do you have a problem with this?

    AB: I believe this runs contrary to the task Bach gave himself when composing the Suites -- a study in the minimal. The great thing about his solo violin works is how he wrote three or four-voiced fugues for one instrument, leaving out notes when he had to for technical reasons. Of course, it was difficult enough for the left hand, with so many double, triple, and quadruple stops.

    When Bach finished the solo violin works, I believe he was fascinated by the fact that one can leave out many notes and still be clear. The cello suites may have been an experiment to see how much he could omit, making the listener fill in the gaps of harmony and counterpoint for him or herself. When you play the lute version of the Fifth Suite, you are adding back notes, which completely undermines what he was trying to do, it seems to me.

    TJ: You don’t think he simplified the music because cellists didn’t have the technical prowess of the violinists in his day?

    AB: No, I don't think so. First of all, I don’t think of the music as simple, they are very well written. Secondly, if you play a violin piece on the cello, it sounds very fat and unclear, particularly double stops on the lower strings. I think he stripped down the music because it sounded better. The cello suites were more an experiment in the minimal, and in using bow technique to bring out the music, whereas the violin pieces are more left-hand oriented.

    TJ: Does this mean that you don't like it when people add their own ornamentation, i.e. a trill or mordent here and there?

    AB: I won't ornament until I know more. For now, I'm trying to play what's written. So much can be done with what is already there. In repeats, you could try a different "pronunciation" instead of adding ornaments if you don't want to play exactly the same twice.

    TJ: In your 1992 recording of the Prelude from the first suite, in the descending scale section at measure 29, you launch into a tempo that is radically different from the rest of the movement. I think we’d all agree that this section should move right along, but why do you play it that much faster?

    AB: I think of that section as a cadenza, so more freedom is allowed. But I don’t make as extreme a tempo change as I used to. I am constantly changing my approach, since I continue to learn more and more about the cello suites. I’m sure I will play them much differently in the future. In fact, I hope I do. I don’t want to stop exploring.

    TJ: There were times, when I read your book where I wondered if you were a little angry as you wrote it. Were you a little mad, or were you just being blunt and trying to wake people up?

    AB: I was not mad at all! I wrote it in good fun. But I did write it in reaction to the nonsense that I frequently hear and read when one discusses Bach. I think the book is good, but it’s not for everybody. Those who are content to play the cello suites the way they’ve always played them should refrain from reading it. But, if you are interested in exploring new territory, I think you should read it. Writing the book, apart from being a lot of fun, gave me many new ideas for all kinds of music, not just Baroque music.

    The book is a quest into unknown Bach territory, if such a thing exists. I hope to inspire the reader to look once more at certain “routines” that may be due for some refreshing, especially the ones thoughtlessly taken over from our teachers. Every one of those “routines,” like requiring a down-bow on the first beat of every bar, was once an insight, and inspired the innovator with a sense of clarity, consistency, and “grip” on the material. But a joke doesn’t get better being told in the same way over and over.

    Sometimes I am a little blunt in the book. For instance, I discuss my distaste for steel strings, which everybody seems to play on. I think they're ugly and very bad for the instrument. If you have a beautiful Italian instrument strung with steel strings, you can hardly hear how beautiful it is because it has so much pressure on it. I worry that we are destroying our precious instruments. The book is meant to be a pleasure to read, and a discussion piece.

    TJ: You say in your book, “Pianists and conductors especially love the expression, ‘phrasing slur,’ combining many small and different motives in one witless line.” You seem to have a low opinion of pianists and conductors.

    AB: I’m not against all pianists and conductors, but I do feel that we string players have been abused by witless conductors and insensitive pianists, who force us to play louder and louder, whether the music calls for it or not. Often, all I hear is percussion and brass when I attend an orchestral concert.

    We string players play the most beautiful instruments on earth! Only we can start a note from silence, and play with immense subtlety. Other instruments do not have the expressive palette that we have. So string players should not yield the character of their instruments to please the others. I’m not talking about people, I’m talking about instruments.

    TJ: You discount the manuscripts other than the Anna Magdalena. What's wrong with the others?

    AB: Kellner apparently tried to copy well, but he is so messy. Westphal and the "Viennese" anonymous, it seems, did not know about the special meaning of slurs in the manuscript. They fashion the bowings more to the style of their second half of the eighteenth century, which had different traditions.

    In Bach's day the Italian approach to bowing was "bow as it comes," so Bach was not as bound by our so-called logic of today. I don't think he felt obligated to repeat slur patterns just because the notes follow a certain pattern. He wanted to add variety in the bowing in order to add interest to the music.

    TJ: Ralph Kirshbaum, in his recording of the G major Prelude, plays eight notes to a bow in the beginning. He creates variety through other means besides varying slur patterns, and feels that he brings out the music beautifully in his own way. Do you think his performance is doomed to tedium from the start because of his generous use of slurs?

    AB: Of course, Mr. Kirshbaum is not the only one who does this. It is certainly possible that he plays this prelude very beautifully. I haven't heard it.

    We cellists have been brainwashed to think that we must all sing in one big line. To me this isn't singing, this is more like talking without enunciating the syllables, belonging more to a twentieth century aesthetic. I prefer clarity.

    If Bach didn't show slurs, why would we add them? He certainly could have added them if he wanted. He was a string player after all. By adding slurs, one is taking away the wonderful variety that is inherent in the slurs shown. But if Mr. Kirshbaum likes how he plays, he should continue to do it, and I'll play my way.

    TJ: But you do say in your book, given that the slurs are not necessarily clearly marked in the manuscript, that every marking could be interpreted in a variety of ways, and that each interpretation could be defended. Does this statement not suggest that there are many ways the cello suites could be played, and doesn't this open the door for more modern approaches to the suites?

    AB: Of course, there are many ways to play Bach. I would hate it if everybody played exactly like me.

    It is occasionally, though not that often, hard to read a slur in the manuscript. But, when an ambiguity exists, we have a problem, since there is hardly any interpretation of the slur that is totally devoid of character. So which one are we to choose? What does not help at all is to do what it says in some parallel passage. The existence of such a passage might be exactly a reason for bowing it differently in the passage in question. I will confess that I am thinking about whether other bowings would be acceptable when the section is repeated. But I don’t dare do this until I learn more.

    TJ: You assert that slurs have become more of a necessary evil than a way of expression. You lament that we want more tone, more singing, and therefore speak less with our instruments. What's wrong with singing?

    AB: There's nothing wrong with singing, but I can’t stand the modern way of opera singing, where you cannot understand the words. The modern way is more bellowing than singing. I hate bellowing, since it all sounds the same after awhile. Modern string players also bellow too much.

    I simply don’t buy the argument that we string players must sing more because we have to play in bigger halls. In a well-designed hall, you can play with much nuance, and the audience will hear it clearly. We need to stop making excuses for insensitive playing. The music must come first!

    Bach’s music is about counterpoint. You destroy the sense of counterpoint when you take the various voices and squash them into a single line. Without counterpoint, the genius of Bach is buried.

    TJ: Paul Tortelier visualized the G Major prelude as a flowing brook or stream. Do you think this use of imagery is appropriate?

    AB: Mr. Tortelier was certainly entitled to use imagery as he pleased. But what if I have a different image? Maybe the prelude makes me think of scratching my foot, the itching being represented by the use of separate bows. The problem with this type of interpretational approach is that it comes from outside the music, not from the score. You cannot attack or defend a person's imagery, since it is very personal. It certainly doesn’t help one understand the composition in an objective manner.

    TJ: When you play the cello suites, are you just trying to play what's written, or are you telling a story?

    AB: I may have a story, but I would never share it with anyone, since it is my business. I wouldn’t want to ruin a piece for someone by planting my imagery in his or her mind. I want people to understand Bach in their own way, not mine.

    This reminds me of a nice story. Years ago I soloed with an amateur orchestra in Holland. One of the cellists was an old bachelor farmer with large red hands. During the intermission, he came up to me and said, “Do you know the second Bourrée of the fourth suite?”

    “Yes, I know it.”

    “When Bach wrote it, he was in a happy mood.”

    Well, I loved this little conversation. But I must say that it told me more about the farmer than it did about Bach. I could see him on a Sunday afternoon, sitting in his farmhouse, struggling with his big red hands to read the score, and then deciding that Bach was in a good mood. And so what I’m saying is that Mr. Tortelier gave us more of a look at who he is, rather than a look at who Bach is or his music.

    TJ: Should we care what Bach may have been thinking or feeling when he wrote the cello suites?

    AB: It's none of our business. Bach was kind enough to give us music that stands quite well on its own. It's perfectly natural to be affected emotionally by such beautiful music. But if you try to justify your emotions by making up stories about what Bach may have been thinking, I worry that you ruin the composition.

    TJ: Do you think Bach agonized over every slur? Or do you think he may have just thrown a few slurs in, making sure that he varied the pattern, but not really caring exactly where they went, just as long as they were different?

    AB: Who can know for sure? I'm just trying to play what's written, placing my trust in Bach's profound artistry. Some of the bowings were placed to bring out the counterpoint, while others were placed to assure variety. I'm sure he was as concerned as the rest of us about not boring his audience, so he decided he would put in some interesting bowings. I'm convinced that he didn't want us to use exactly the same bowing in sequences, for example, repeating the slur pattern three times. This is why I say on the first page of my book, "Let's be careful not to just do the same thing."

    TJ: You also later say, "We cannot be too suspicious of our modern pride in logic and order." Do you believe that our efforts to make sense of the music by adding seemingly logical bowings may actually hurt the music instead of enhance it?

    AB: Our world is obsessed with making everything the same. New houses look the same, new cars look the same, books look the same, and cultures are starting to feel the same. My book represents my fight against uniformity, which is why I scribbled in it.

    We need to stop being so arrogant in our approach. We all go to school and study music theory and counterpoint, and then we force our modern way of thinking on geniuses of the past. Who are we to presume that we know better than they do?

    TJ: Could one make a case that, though beauty may be taken away when we apply our modern logical approach to bowing, beauty is actually added back, though in a different way, by creating flowing lines?

    AB: The concept of flowing lines is not appropriate for eighteenth century music, it belongs to the nineteenth century. Music became more chromatic and more overtly emotional in the nineteenth century, which resulted in long flowing lines. In Bach's time too, chromatic passages may have been played more sustained than diatonic ones -- just try it. But we shouldn't impose nineteenth century principles on Bach.

    By the way, I love Bruckner too, but, for my taste, too many big lines are played in his music, as well as in Brahms and other nineteenth century composers. Maybe it's easier to conduct a long line when moving one's arms about with that painfully imperfect instrument, the "baton," an instrument which is unfit for showing more than one motive per minute. We shouldn't let the limitations of the baton get in our way to "true" music making. We need to take a fresh look at how we play all music, not just Baroque music.

    TJ: When you perform Bach, do you still think of musical lines, even if they are not flowing? With the kind of articulations you describe in your book, where there are lots of gaps between notes, it makes it more difficult to sense a connected musical line.

    AB: I don’t agree at all. I think people can sense the line just fine. I want to make sure that I don’t lace things together that are meant to be separate. I don’t want to mash the notes together. Fortunately, I have the text on my side, with the articulations clearly marked.

    TJ: You discuss the use of vibrato in your book, referring somewhat sarcastically to the "constant vibrato cult." I believe that most great artists are very conscious of their vibrato, and make sure that they don't lapse into "auto-pilot" with it. They strive for an "infinite variety" in their vibrato, as Casals described it. So who are the cult members?

    AB: Most conductors belong, who then recruit their otherwise very fine orchestral musicians. The conductors want their orchestra to sound big and lush, so they ask the players to continuously vibrate. When I see this, it looks like the musicians are all making love to themselves.

    Part of the problem is that steel strings sound so ugly. With gut strings, you don’t have the urge to vibrate all the time, and you aren't afraid of the open 'A' string, which is very beautiful. A steel open 'A' sounds tinny. I hope that string players eventually go back to gut strings.

    Another problem with constant vibrato is that you never distinguish between consonances and dissonances. Dissonances are wonderfully expressive moments and deserve a little emphasis. Don't get me wrong, I love vibrato, and I use it all the time, but it shouldn't be applied continuously. It makes everything sound the same.

    TJ: Wasn't vibrato considered an ornament in Bach's time, along with trills and mordents?

    AB: Yes, and I think vibrato should be applied like a trill. Just as trilling on every note sounds ridiculous, so does vibrating all the time. I must admit, though, that French viola da gamba players and flute players used to vibrate much more than I do, sometimes with a width as much as a half-tone or even a third. And Geminiani, in his book in 1751, said that one should vibrate as often as possible. But that was their taste, and it certainly isn't mine, or many others' in the eighteenth century. I love tasteful and sensitively applied vibrato.

    TJ: On a side note, I have your recording of the Brahms Cello Sonatas with Lambert Orkis. You don’t use very much vibrato in Brahms either.

    AB: No. Joachim, the legendary violinist and beloved friend of Brahms, used vibrato very sparingly. There is a famous description by someone who attended a concert of the Joachim String Quartet. The person, describing a moment in the middle of a Beethoven Quartet, wrote something like, “Then something happened very strange, very moving, and very unexpected. They all suddenly vibrated.” I have a feeling I would have enjoyed Joachim’s playing very much.

    I think of the Brahms sonatas as kind of symphonies for two people. There were very few symphony orchestras at the time of Brahms; being very rare before the 1880's. So many experienced symphonic works through arrangements, like for piano for four hands, or for flute and string quartet, or other small groups. Since there was no radio and there were no recordings at the time, people would play these reductions.

    I like to think of these sonatas as if they are reductions of orchestral scores. As the pieces progress, I imagine different instruments playing. For instance, in the opening of the F Major Sonata, I imagine I am playing the first horn, not the cello. Another time, I may think I am the cello and bass section together. It’s a lot of fun to work this way, and helps one get new ideas.

    TJ: Getting back to Baroque music, though this may apply to music of other periods too, how do you bring out dissonances?

    AB: A dissonance, like a suspension, should usually be louder than the consonances around it, since dissonances are more interesting to the ear. This can be done with a little vibrato or with bow technique. Listeners will more or less fill out the consonance for themselves, because they expect them, which is why you barely have to touch a consonance after a dissonance. But a dissonance yearns be brought out clearly. They are wonderful moments of tension.

    To illustrate this, I used to give my students an example: you never read in the newspaper that, when Father came home, he lit his pipe, put on his slippers, and opened the paper. But you will read, when Father came home, he put on his slippers, opened the paper, lit his pipe, and the house blew up, because, unknown to him, there was a gas leak in the house. See what I mean? The dissonance creates the interest, not the consonance.

    TJ: You object to the modern goal of trying to make the sound quality uniform across the cello. What's wrong with this?

    AB: This belongs to the aesthetics of the 1940's and the Glenn Miller Band era, when everything had to sound smooth and even. I have nothing against Glenn Miller, I just don't think it should be forced upon Bach.

    I also object to this because it is yet another way that we are trying to make everything the same. We don't want to hear bow changes and we don’t want to be able to hear which string we are playing on. But it is the variety that makes the cello and other string instruments so beautiful. I am fighting against uniformity.

    TJ: You mention that "playing out of tune undeniably gives immediate communication." What did you mean by this?

    AB: You should see the faces in the audience when somebody plays a note out of tune -- that's communication. The members of the audience certainly notice it, not that they like it.

    TJ: Was the concept of intonation much different back in Bach's time than today?

    AB: Yes, in Bach's time, equal temperament was not the last word, especially with string players. When we play with equal tempered intonation, like we have on the piano, we don't sound as beautiful. We should stop trying to emulate the piano, another weapon of uniformity, and take advantage of the inherent beauties of our string instruments.

    TJ: Speaking of the piano, you wrote that the pianist needs the character of other instruments to describe the meaning of a given piece of music. Why do you say this?

    AB: The piano has very little character by itself. They don't have nearly the expressive palette that we string players have. They need another instrument to really describe the intent of the piece. Also, the pianist's job is to fool you into believing you are hearing individually hammered notes as a coherent melody, and into believing that the "color" of a note has been changed merely by altering the harmony underneath.

    TJ: Do you not consider sonatas, for instance, to be an equal partnership between the piano and the cello?

    AB: On paper we may be equal partners, but in reality, string players are at a disadvantage. The composers were almost always pianists, so the piano part is usually beautifully crafted, while the string part is less well thought out. Also, the piano has become twice as loud, for which too few pianists compensate, getting carried away with their wonderful parts. When we join the piano, bowings that sound beautiful when we are alone must be radically altered when the piano joins in. Otherwise, we will not be heard. We usually must adjust to whatever the pianist is doing, not the other way around.

    TJ: You write about the piano having an “indifferent equality.” Do you also think this is true of the harpsichord?

    AB: I’m no lover of the harpsichord, and I say this knowing that I have dear friends who play it. I rarely play with harpsichord, maybe fifteen concerts per year.

    TJ: Then what instrument do you play with when you play Bach’s gamba/harpsichord sonatas?

    AB: I occasionally play them on cello piccolo with a small organ.

    TJ: That's surprising. How could you be encouraging us to play the Bach Suites from the manuscripts, and yet you play these sonatas with organ instead of harpsichord?

    AB: An autograph only exists for the first sonata. There is some mention in the B.W.V. about there having been an autograph at the time of the first complete Bach edition, but that edition is so full of errors that it is not a reliable source at all. The first sonata was also written for two flutes, harpsichord, and continuo, which I like much better.

    The second sonata exists only as a copy by a gambist, done after Bach’s death. It is even questionable if the movements belong together. There also exists a setting of this sonata by someone in the Bach circle for two violins and continuo. When you compare the score with my performance, you will notice that I added two bars in the second movement, because I assume that the copyist, who must have copied from separate parts, fitted it together incorrectly. The third sonata has all the makings of a big orchestral piece, like a Seventh Brandenburg Concerto, and has been transcribed for the instrumentation of the Sixth Brandenburg Concerto by John Hsu.

    So, I don’t think I’m being too naughty when I play them with organ. Besides, I don’t think these pieces were meant for the gamba and harpsichord in the first place. They are much too good for that. They don't sound well on these two instruments.

    Getting back to the cello suites, and the Anna Magdalena manuscript, you could say that Mrs. Bach was crazy, and she didn't know what she was writing, but I don't like that kind of argument. What she wrote does make sense when you stop thinking like a nineteenth century musician and more like a eighteenth century one. When you make a genuine attempt to play what’s written, which is very difficult from a technical standpoint, you will receive blessings beyond your wildest dreams.

    My primary goal in the book is to bring players new ideas. If you truly play what you feel, and you play it as well as you can, your honesty will come out in whatever way you do it, whether you use vibrato or not, or whether you use steel or gut strings. All these things don't really matter if the performance is true. As I say in the flyer for my book, my hope is that "Bach, the fencing master" will become your friend in a way that I could hardly have suspected. It will be a wonderful journey. I promise.

    9/5/98

  • Anner Bylsma

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • A comprehensive discussion  on Bach Cello Suites, by Donald Satz ,

  •  please click on the following link:

  •  http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NonVocal/Solo-Cello-Part1.htm

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  • The Six Cello Suites
    BWV 1007-1012

    PIETER WISPELWEY
    Baroque cello (Barak Norman, 1710)
    violoncello piccolo (anon., 18th century)

    CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS 12298
    2 discs [61:35 + 78:28] budget-price by Chia Han-Leon

    SIX SUITES FOR CELLO? by Pieter Wispelwey (trans. Ian Gaukroger)

    The need is strong to imagine these pieces having just been written - as fresh music, without the burden of interpretations, connotations and obligatory associations. Music that simply refers to earlier music: in short, new, modern, intriguing music. Music for a single cello, but written by a composer with an enormous aptitude for the rich, polyphonic baroque language. Why though? What was Bach's aim? An experiment, an upbeat to compositions for solo violin?

    Whatever the case, the endeavour must have amused him. Perhaps it cost him no trouble at all and maybe he even wrote them in a flash.

    Undoubtedly the commission, whether or not autonomous, to write suites for solo cello was particularly challenging and unusual. The idea probably made him grin from ear to ear...

    The playing here, the instruments, the music is all wonderful, if you take my word for it. But after all this, perhaps the greatest thing about this album is the personal tribute to the composer and his cello suites written by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey. It is so... really reflected in the performances that I think I shall say that the sincerity and the humanity of his essay already gives his recording the fully favourable review it deserves. Instead of treating the Suites one by one, Wispelwey examines each dance movement in turn, framing each with an introduction and a conclusion (quoted in this article in the insets).

    So if you ask me if a player could ever "review" his own performance - here is the best example, and I embraced it fully. This album is perhaps the best instance of a self-contained tribute, education and showcase of its music and performer. Wispelwey is aware even of the dangers of writing on this macroscopic music, when he describes the music as "less pompous than the words it can tempt us to use." And tempt it does, and I am guilty of being tempted far too many times. In almost every instance, I must agree that words cannot do justice to this music, nor its performer here. For this I offer my profoundest apologies to Bach and Mr Wispelwey. Perhaps in time, we will find the right words...

    Time passes so fast with this music. Time... 250 years... The simplicity of Bach's writing is often forgotten when one listens to players like Wispelwey. The score of the opening prelude of the First Suite, with its endless semiquavers, shows no indication of tempo or rhythmic variation (except for the two pauses) and yet it is suffused with the myriad beauty of rubato. It is all up to the cellist to use this thing of human variation, that human art called music. Someone once asked me, while I was playing this track to him and showing him the score, how is it that the rhythm of the semiquavers are so strict, yet the player does not obey the score at all?

    Precisely.

    Wispelwey never forces his personality on the music - it comes across as entirely natural. Warmth and sincerity is caught in the fast movements, while his slow sarabandes are loving, nobly anguished, questioning... but always human. Listening to him, the cello seems to disappear, and there is just something human left. Thinking upon that, Wispelwey himself seems to disappear, and there is just something universal left. It is as if, if one could fill the infinity of the star-filled universe with air, one would hear this music.

    WORD OF THANKS by Pieter Wispelwey (trans. Ian Gaukroger)
    ... Let us imagine once again how this domain was entered when the great Bach humbly began to write down our notes one by one. Let us also remember that it was a ca.35-year-old Bach who concentrated his powers to channel his unbridled creativity and energy - a man whose brain functioned hundreds of times more quickly than his quill could write (although that must have been impressive too). His was a fantasy which covered an enormous spectrum, just as the suites encompass the entire spectrum of simplicity to sublimity (among others).

    It is the stratifications that makes the Suites so hypnotic, the endless evocativeness while using only a single cello. A fascinating paradox, this alchemy in dance form. It is not unfathomably profound music by a deeply religious composer advanced in years, nor it it biblical in the thoroughly serious sense. That would not be moving. Above all it is magical music and possibly biblical in the sense that it narrates stories in a comprehensible language, from the archaic to the refined, about the immeasurable dimensions and variations of the human experiment.

    For that reason we are grateful: grateful that these pieces exist, that they seem to be about everything, that we are moved without being able to grasp them or even know whether we are meant to grasp them, that we enjoy them quia absurdum est.

    Wispelwey calls the courante of the Fifth Suite "clenched with power", and certainly he drives it along with great strength, but also a "masculine" grace. His touch is gracefully light, and his instruments respond with amazing, intricate detail and sensitivity, even sensuality. The voices of the cello (Barak Norman, 1710) and the violoncello piccolo (anon. 18th century) used are light and articulate, with a texture most pleasing to the ear. The menuets are light, youthfully light; or urging, but also light, and happy in an an earnest, untainted way. Where the music is more vigorous, the cellist skips, leaps and dances with turning, curving joy.

    The opening prelude of Suite No.4 positively dances.. what is it?... Unbelievable, I told myself inside my head as I listened to this ... it is like light itself dancing. Shafts of E-flat flittering, scintillating in the air. And the light gathers itself, corsucating with more and more weight... then darkness wandering... then the dance of light returns.

    Wispelwey plays with such honesty. His passion is tempered but sincere, but never overboard. In fact what I love so much about this entire set is the total serenity of his utterance in whatever key, whatever level of discipline or passion. At no point does he seem as if he is trying to challenge old or acknowledged ways of playing this music, or trying to outwit another cellist in a competition. The playing is completely detached from the outside world, and yet it is for the world, relishing in its beauty, almost showing our own beauty to ourselves.

    Even in deep melancholia Wispelwey finds something consoling to tell us. In the two bourיes of Suite No.4, the first seems like a grown man reliving his childhood, the second simply made me smile with its open-hearted humour.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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     Yellow Cello Art Print by Marsha Hammel

    INTERPRETATIONAL ANGST
    AND
    THE BACH CELLO SUITES

    by Tim Janof

    http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/angst.htm
     

    I yearn to deeply comprehend the Bach Cello Suites. Much to my dismay, so does everybody else, including the world's greatest musicians. Whether Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier, Rostropovich, or whoever your favorite cellist may be, they all rightfully speak of the Suites with an effusive reverence. They all refer to the "infinity" of Bach, the "oceanic depths" of Bach, or the "cathedral" of Bach.

    Though inspiring and poetic words, as a student of the Suites, I want to know more. What are the underlying principles that guide the great interpreters? How are tempos chosen? How are bowings chosen? How are articulations chosen? It is this kind of concrete information that will guide me on my quest, not heartfelt utterances from the soul or Zen-like koans.

    The purpose of this article is not so much to come up with the answers, as it is to state the questions, or at least some of them. In some cases, answers from the various artists are shared, but their responses are by no means considered to be the last word. Often, their answers only lead to more questions, hence my interpretational angst.

    Head vs. Heart (Apollonian vs. Dionysian)


    One of the ancient and ongoing battles in the music world is the conflict between Scholars and Performers, a battle we must also fight internally. Of course, the dividing line between the two camps is rather fuzzy, since many serious musicians put a lot of thought into how they play, and often research the historical background and practices of the works they perform. And scholars seek more than mere theoretical correctness in performances. This line has become particularly unclear with the emergence of the Early Music movement, which "Modern" performers eye with deep interest, suspicion, and even a little anger. But I think it's safe to say that Performers tend to place a higher emphasis upon inspiration, connecting with their own emotions and the audience, and the poetry of the music, whereas Scholars tend to emphasize historical and theoretical accuracy. Both approaches to music are important, and could not, and should not, exist without the other.

    This dichotomy clearly surfaces when the Bach Cello Suites are discussed. Rostropovich states the problem for many in his recent Bach Suite videos: "The hardest thing in interpreting Bach is the necessary equilibrium between human feelings, the heart that undoubtedly Bach possessed, and the severe and profound aspect of interpretation... You cannot automatically disengage your heart from the music. This was the greatest problem I had to resolve in my interpretation ... I had to search for the golden medium between a romantic, rhapsodic interpretation of Bach and scholastic aridity." [1]

    This is a dilemma we all must face. If we play the Suites in a "romantic" manner, are we playing in a way that is as incongruous as when Shakespeare's Macbeth is re-set in a dude ranch, using Bach's notes, but not staying within his sound world, his Baroque aesthetic? And if we choose a more personal approach to the suites, is it bad?

    For those over thirty years old, Pablo Casals was probably the most influential Bach Suite interpreter of our musical upbringing. Casals' thundering words still echo in our heads, Bach "has every feeling: lovely, tragic, dramatic, poetic ... always soul and heart and expression. How he enters into the most profound of ourselves! Let us find that Bach."[2] Casals' dominating influence resulted in generations of pseudo-imitators, leading Richard Taruskin to react with the following controversial statement: "Pablo Casals ... revived [the Suites] from the dead, made them a classic, created their performance practice, and -- as interpretations of consummate authority will -- ruined them for generations to come." [3]

    But was Casals correct? Did Bach compose the suites while deeply connected with his emotions and soul? Or did he just rattle them off like a mathematician? Yes, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach said that his father "was no lover of dry, mathematical stuff," [4] but does that justify pouring one's heart and soul into the Suites? Or should it even matter to a performer what Bach was thinking or feeling while he composed them?

    Editions


    Much has been written about the Bach Suite editions in the last few years, including my 1995 article, "A Survey of Bach Suite Editions," so I will not spend too much time on this issue, though I have some additional thoughts.

    Jeffrey Solow, in his own article on the Bach Suite editions, points out that the various editions of the cello suites can be divided into four categories:

    1. Facsimiles of the Manuscripts
    2. Scholarly or Critical Editions
    3. Unedited Editions
    4. Performance Editions [5]

    I believe that items 1-3 can be roughly combined into a single category, 'scholarly', since they all keep a mindful eye on the facsimiles. Thus, reinforcing my earlier discussion of the scholar/performer duality, there are essentially two classes of editions: scholarly and performance editions. The Wenzinger and Markevitch are examples of scholarly editions. The Fournier and Casals-Foley are examples of performance editions.

    Performance editions should be used with caution. "Studying a performance edition is like having a lesson with the cellist who edited it and can be very interesting and useful ... But, in my opinion, the Suites should never be learned solely from a performance edition. One should always have the manuscripts and scholarly editions for study and reference." [6] Otherwise, one runs the risk of interpreting another cellist's interpretation, instead of interpreting Bach.

    A Different Aesthetic


    The Baroque composers' concept of music was very different from our own, which is more akin to the 19th Century view. Counterpoint, with its multiple, intertwining, semi-melodic lines, yields, in the 19th Century, to music with single melodies supported by more chordal accompaniments. Also, an overtly emotional element gradually emerges as the 19th Century progresses.

    "The goals in Baroque music are often very different. In some ways you could say that Baroque music is much more formal and formulaic. It's something that's not only found in the music, it's a sign of an era. When you look at Baroque art, Baroque architecture, and Baroque literature, you find the same kinds of fascination with form and structure. You find fascination with repetition in a way, and with how you can express yourself within a rather strict or ... sometimes rigid framework. This is a very different concept and a very different aesthetic from Romantic music." [7]

    Baroque music, like the Bach Cello Suites, seems less "goal-oriented" than much 19th Century music. "The German term 'durchfuhrung,' which is used to describe the Baroque technique of melodic elaboration, is often translated as 'spinning out.' This is a perfect description of the effect that Bach manages in movement after movement of the Suites as he draws out a melodic thread more and more finely, focusing on the progress from one moment to the next until, before the listener realizes it, the melodic thread has spanned the movement from beginning to end. 19th Century melodic development, with its discrete phrases and cadences, is quite foreign to this spinning-out concept. The 19th Century sublimated moment-to-moment beauties to gain the delayed gratification of structural points of arrival."[8]

    Baroque composers followed very different rules when they wrote music. "The phenomenon present in the Cello Suites is something called polyphonic melody. By using a large melodic range and many leaps, Bach implies chordal structures. With a little maneuvering (omission of passing tones and the like), one can convert any of the Cello Suite movements into a choral style piece -- a series of vertical, multi-voiced chords. Most of the time a consistent number of voices will be implied in the melody -- often four or five, sometimes more. When the polyphonic melody has been converted into choral style, you will notice that the voice-leading of each line is carefully worked out. You will also often find some 'strange' chords, because he wasn't thinking of the progression of chordal roots. So, to address modern 'authentic' performance practice: it is correct for the performers to bring out the vertical structures [or harmonies], because polyphonic melody can be seen as a variation of choral style. Bach did recognize chordal types that arose from a combination of melodic lines, but not as a progression of chordal roots within a key (like I-IV-V-I). He recognized them more as figured bass structures ... All the vertical dissonances in Bach music are related to the bass note (not necessarily the root) and receive proper contrapuntal treatment in relation to the bass note. The vertical structures were by-products of the combination of multiple melodic lines. Composers were definitely taught that certain vertical structures were used best in particular circumstances [i.e. that the dominant is a good point of arrival]. Bach was aware of vertical structures (in a figured bass way), and in what context certain ones appeared, but, for him, melodic and contrapuntal considerations were more important and shaped his music to a greater degree." [9]

    So now that we understand that Bach had a concept of music that is somewhat alien to our own, what do we do with this information? Do we ignore this somewhat troubling awareness, and continue to play from our 20th Century impulses? Or do we try to incorporate this knowledge into our playing? Ralph Kirshbaum thinks that to ignore this would be "inappropriate" and that it "is better to try to stay within the musical vocabulary of the time when a piece was written, as best we understand it." [10]

    Dance Forms


    Each Suite is composed of movements that are patterned after 16th or 17th Century dances (except the preludes), though some dance forms become more obscured in the later Suites. There are allemandes, courantes, sarabandes, minuets, gigues, etc., and each has a characteristic rhythmic feel. For example, typical Sarabandes are in a dignified three with an emphasis upon the second beat. If you haven't already, I suggest you read the descriptions of each dance form in a good music dictionary. But is one obligated to bring out the "defined" dance characteristic of each movement, or is it acceptable to play each movement with little regard for these "rules"? Does a sarabande have to be played in three beats per measure, or is it acceptable to play it in six?

    Nathaniel Rosen prefers a freer approach, "People often talk about these pieces as dance movements. They're not dance movements! They are works for unaccompanied cello which have, with the exception of the Preludes, titles of dance movements .... Some of the movements are more dance-like, and some ... less dance-like. It isn't dance music!" [11]

    Paul Tortelier thought of each suite as a whole, and how each movement relates to the other. Each dance "retains its basic rhythmic character...[and] has its distinguishing tempo.... By respecting the inherent nature of each dance, the interpreter will find the contrast of tempos which brings variety within the suite." [12] He describes a thought process that is useful for any multi-movement piece, to consider each movement's place in the overall work. Each movement should have a distinct character, otherwise the performance will be bland.

    Repeats

    The issue of whether to play all repeats is a perennial controversy. The safe and more pious answer is to do all repeats, since that's what Bach wrote, and it preserves the symmetry of the binary form of the dances.

    There is some dissension amongst cellists, however, who consider other factors, like the overall balance between the two halves of each movement, and the average audience's attention span. Though Janos Starker plays all repeats in his recent recording of the Bach Suites, in earlier recordings he doesn't. In "some of the Bach movements, the first section is 16 bars and the second one is 32 bars, so I find that the 16 bars should be repeated while the 32 bars should not. I think it was sort of a mechanical gesture on the part of the composer to put in the repeat marks. Sometimes I choose not to repeat the second half because it's too long." [13]

    Nathaniel Rosen agrees, "In the early Bach suites I took more repeats, while in the late suites I generally took fewer. They were starting to feel a little long ... For instance, ... I think the Allemande [of the D Major Suite] is like Bach's Air on the G String without the accompaniment. The absence of the accompaniment makes it a little bit long if you take all the repeats." [14]

    Vibrato


    We "modern" cellists need to consider the amount of vibrato we use in Bach. Many would agree that a "dead" hand is undesirable, since a certain "life" would be missed. But many cellists unleash a juicy vibrato, especially in the slower movements.

    Vibrato was thought of more as an ornament in Baroque music, along with trills, turns, and mordents. "For a Baroque musician ... [it] would have seemed very silly [to use vibrato all the time]. It would have seemed as silly as eating whipped cream on everything, whether stew or strawberries," [15] or as silly as trilling every note.

    How much vibrato, if any, is appropriate?

    Ornamentation

    Another dilemma is whether or not to add ornamentation when playing the Bach Cello Suites. Historians believe that it was common, and perhaps expected, for musicians in the Baroque era to supply their own ornamentation as they saw fit. I have heard, but not yet verified, that excessive ornamentation was one of Bach's pet peeves, so he made it a habit to indicate where he wanted ornaments, either by notating them or by writing out the notes of the ornaments so that they are part of the basic text.

    Anner Bylsma believes that Bach intentionally paired down the ornaments in the cello suites:

    " I believe this runs contrary to the task Bach gave himself when composing the Suites -- a study in the minimal. The great thing about his solo violin works is how he wrote three or four-voiced fugues for one instrument, leaving out notes when he had to for technical reasons. Of course, it was difficult enough for the left hand, with so many double, triple, and quadruple stops.

    When Bach finished the solo violin works, I believe he was fascinated by the fact that one can leave out many notes and still be clear. The cello suites may have been an experiment to see how much he could omit, making the listener fill in the gaps of harmony and counterpoint for him or herself… The cello suites were more an experiment in the minimal, and in using bow technique to bring out the music, whereas the violin pieces are more left-hand oriented. " [16]

    Does adding one's own ornaments run contrary to Bach's artistic conception?

    Sometimes cellists add ornaments when playing a repeat to add variety to their performance. Is this practice merely an artistic crutch? Do musicians do this instead of digging more deeply into the notes as written, and using their creativity and artistry to find different meanings and colors without having to alter the text?

    Bowings and Fingerings - The Modern Approach


    Paul Tortelier said that "Searching for the ideal bowings in each passage is a lifelong challenge for every cellist," [17] which I'm sure he'd extend to fingerings as well. Bowings and fingerings vary with each player, and evolve over time, making this a very complicated issue. Musicians vary these for many reasons: to highlight certain thematic ideas, to convey a certain character or mood, to make things more playable, to be more audible, and so on. Choices in this matter also depend on whether one is trying to play in a "modern" style, or in a Baroque style, which I'll discuss later.

    Janos Starker provides us with insight into his process. "Either there's something wrong with the flow, or something is wrong with the balance, or certain passages incline to simply run and become mechanical." [18] His ideas also stem from a desire to make the suites more playable, "The primary motivation is always how to play the cello better. How to make the cello a 'less in need of excuses instrument.'" [19] And his fingerings and bowings vary depending on the performance environment. "There are safe fingerings and then there are fingerings in halls where there is an echo. There are fingerings or bowings for places where you don't hear yourself. That's where you have to take more bows." [20]

    Pablo Casals kept changing his bowings and fingerings too, not wanting to fall into an artistic rut. According to Bonnie Hampton, a former student of Casals, he emphasized that music:

    "...is supposed to be a constantly living experience. In fact, when I heard him play the Bach Suites throughout the years, and while studying with him in the late 50's and early 60's, he was already using quite different bowings from those he had used earlier in his landmark recordings. Earlier in his life he had used much more legato bowings, which was the more Romantic style of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Then he had probably seen some of the Urtext editions, which indicate more separate bows, so he started to incorporate more of these in his own playing.

    "He was constantly evolving, especially with Bach ... In fact, I remember one time in Prades, when there were several of us studying the same Suite. We'd get bowings and fingerings from each other to save lesson time. At one lesson he figured out what we were doing. So after he heard me play, he said, 'Now let's start from the beginning.' He then played it in a way that we hadn't heard before, though it still had the same structural feel and the same general character as before. In other words, the details were not as crucial as the understanding of the phrases, the understanding of where the music was going, and the understanding of the character." [21]

    In order to help you gain more insight into the various bowing and fingering approaches, I suggest you obtain several editions and compare and contrast each editor's ideas. Over time, you will come up with your own approach.

    But when we alter the bowings from the manuscripts, flawed as they are, do we bury the genius of Bach, putting too much of ourselves into his music? Who are we to alter Bach? Or, if we remain slaves to the manuscripts, do we become too robotic in our approach, losing the creativity inherent in the art of music making?

    Articulations - The Authentic Approach


    The Early Music performer attempts to recreate the performance practice of the Baroque period when playing the Suites, which is a real challenge, since Baroque musicians had very different instruments, bows, and strings, different concepts of intonation and articulation, and different musical goals. As previously discussed, the Baroque sound world was very different from today's.

    Articulation in the Baroque period was very different. For example, "Baroque performers took for granted ... [that two-note slurs] involved shortening the second note slightly - separating it, in other words, from the following note - and making a slight diminuendo from the first note to the second." [22] They tended to play notes with more separate bows, instead of slurring them together, "playing such notes fairly short and a bit separated from each other." [23] Also, chords were executed in a more arpeggiated manner, instead of being "crunched out" triple and quadruple stops.

    These articulations were the result of several factors. Not only were the instruments different from today's, but Baroque musicians also had a different aesthetic, a different concept of what a beautiful sound was, and had different musical goals. These articulations are consistent with the "spinning out" compositional style, described earlier, since the music "steps" along, instead of flowing seamlessly.

    The dilemma we face as "modern" cellists is that Baroque articulations are not consistent with our modern aesthetic. We have grown accustomed to more smoothly connected musical lines, which is why we tend to slur more notes together. The Baroque articulations can make a modern listener "seasick," since the music can feel very disjointed and "beat-y." When one is continually injecting gaps between notes, or emphasizing smaller divisions of each measure, it is much more difficult to maintain a sense of musical direction and the long phrase. Is it possible to create a sense of musical line with these articulations, and yet do it in a musically satisfying way for modern ears? Or do we just need to put on our Baroque hats, adjust our aesthetic, and enjoy the stepping and "spinning out" of the music?

    Also, since our instruments are so different from Baroque instruments, including bows and strings, what is the use of trying to re-create the Baroque sound? It will never sound the same. Or is it our "duty" to try?

    Conclusion



    Many questions surface when one chooses to play Bach. Given the tremendous variety of performances on record, it should come as no surprise that there is little agreement on the answers, which probably means that there is no "right" answer. It seems that the best one can do is learn as much as one can about the outstanding issues, and then make informed choices. My hunch is that a hybrid of the two approaches is appropriate, and realistic.

    If you decide to play in an 'authentic' manner, then do so with great conviction! You may annoy some Performers, but perhaps you've just tapped into their guilt about not playing more 'authentically'. And if you choose to play Bach in a "romantic" manner, then also do so with great conviction! You may anger some Scholars, but maybe you've merely accessed their self-judgment about not being more expressive players. Whatever you choose, do what's right for you. The infinity of Bach will endure.


    Footnotes


    [When an author is not listed below, the author is Tim Janof]

    [1] Mstislav Rostropovich, "J.S. Bach Cello Suites," EMI Classics Video, 1995.
    [2] David Blum, Casals and the Art of Interpretation, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1977, p. 141.
    [3] Richard Taruskin, "Six Times Six, A Bach Suite Selection," Strings (January/February 1995): 117.
    [4] Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach, 1775. H. T. David and A. Mendel, The Bach Reader, Norton, New York, 1966, p. 278.
    [5] Jeffrey Solow, "Bach's Cello Suites: A Guide to the Editionally Perplexed," American String Teacher (Winter 1996): 81.
    [6] Jeffrey Solow, "Bach's Cello Suites: A Guide to the Editionally Perplexed," American String Teacher (Winter 1996): 82.
    [7] "Conversation with Margriet Tindemans," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (July/August 1996).
    [8] David Sills, "Articulation in J.S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites," American String Teacher (Winter 1998), 55.
    [9] Jennifer D. Milne, graduate student in music theory at the University of Washington, in an April 14, 1997 e-mail to me.
    [10] "Conversation with Ralph Kirshbaum," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (July/August 1997).
    [11] "Conversation with Nathaniel Rosen," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (May/June 1996).
    [12] David Blum and Paul Tortelier, Paul Tortelier: A Self-Portrait, Heinemann Ltd, London, 1984, p. 159.
    [13] "Conversation with Janos Starker," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (November/December 1996).
    [14] "Conversation with Nathaniel Rosen," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (May/June 1996).
    [15] "Conversation with Margriet Tindemans," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (July/August 1996).
    [16] "Conversation with Anner Bylsma," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (November/December 1998).
    [17] David Blum and Paul Tortelier, Paul Tortelier: A Self-Portrait, Heinemann Ltd, London, 1984, p. 161.
    [18] Suzanne McIntosh, "Janos Starker on Bach," American String Teacher (Autumn 1985), p. 50-51.
    [19] Ibid.
    [20] Ibid.
    [21] "Conversation with Bonnie Hampton," Internet Cello Society Tutti Celli (January/February 1997).
    [22] David Sills, "Articulation in J.S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites," American String Teacher (Winter 1998), 54.
    [23] Ibid.

     Lilian Broca

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