Monday, April 9, 2012

Bach Cello Suites

Today I've had the opportunity to listen to some really beautiful music, as I've driven about in my personal mobile concert hall! Listening to the Bach Cello Suites, as performed by Yo Yo Ma, I am transported beyond the mundane, to another place entirely, elegant, peaceful, filled with richness and warmth.

I love these pieces, just the artist and his instrument, and if you listen extremely closely, you can hear him breathe, or gather breath as he begins a particular passage. You begin to understand the concentration, the effort involved, the humanity of playing an instrument and making music. It can look effortless, but it is not.

The suites are actually Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, composed during a period from 1717-1723, when Johann Sebastian Bach was employed as Kapellmeister, or choir director, for a church in Cothen, Germany. The suites contain a variety of techniques and range of emotion, but it is their intimacy that makes then endure. They appear simple, but there is fierce competition between artists regarding their interpretation. Over time they have been transcribed for various instruments, including mandolin, guitar, piano, horn, clarinet, and even ukulele!

Here's an interesting bit: The suites were not widely known until the 1900's, when Pablo Casals discovered a particular edition of them in a thrift shop in Barcelona, Spain, when Casals was 13. He began studying them, and the rest is history! He did not perform them in public until 1925, when he was 48, and he agreed to record the pieces, becoming the first to record them in their entirety. There popularity them soared!
The suites are in six movements each, having the following structure and order of movements:
Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Galanteries, and Gigue.

Personally, I love them as interpreted by Yo Yo Ma, and I have included a couple You Tubes below for your listening pleasure. The first is joyful, celebratory; the second with such pathos that you could cry. Enjoy them, and then go out and purchase the whole set. You won't be disappointed.

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