Thursday, 13 March 2008

78. Johann Sebastian Bach - Six Suites For Solo Cello (c.1720)


Title: Six Suites For Solo Cello
Performer: Torleif Thedéen
Year: 1995-96
Length: about 2 hours


This is probably one of the most famous works for solo cello, if not the most famous, and there are very good reasons for that. This collection of six suites is a truly impressive achievement by Bach, each suite has a very different feel, from the light 1st to the very dark 5th, they each work very independently while being absolutely part of the same vision.

The solo cello suites by Bach are some of my favourite works for any instrument, I was, like many I am sure, woken up to it as a young boy due to Yo-Yo Ma's Inspired by Bach series. With the years I have come not to find Mr. Ma's performance as the best one, or most faithful. Inspired by Bach is right.

Torlief Thedéen gives us what is a substantially darker approach to the work, which works better and makes the whole thing juicier, more layered and with further depths. If you want to buy this through don't be discouraged by the sole 1 sentence 1 star review, that person is talking shit. Get it.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

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. 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.

Allemande from the 1st suite, by Rostropovich:

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