This Wednesday I’m going to be recording an unaccompanied Bach cd of cello suite no 1 at Wadenhoe Church. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to other cellists’ recordings, most of which are excellent, and also recordings of unaccompanied Bach by violinists. With so many superb interpretations around why bother to record it yourself, you may ask? A good question, especially as I usually find solo playing quite stressful.
Why record an unaccompanied Bach cd?
I suppose the main reason is that I love the music, and live performance is so ephemeral and subjective that I would like to have a something permanent which will always remind me of how I play. Performing unaccompanied is revealing and technically demanding, but this suite is very happy in mood.
What was Bach’s life like when he wrote this?
The suite is in G major, one of the most relaxed and calm keys, and was written at a time when Bach was in his mid thirties, healthy, well respected and had a secure job at the court in Cothen. Some of Bach’s greatest music, including the six Brandenburg Concertos, was written at this time and I think this unaccompanied suite reflects Bach’s confident state of mind. Above all, it expresses that wonderful sense of balance that is so characteristic of Bach’s music and shows a great love of life.
About key colours
About forty years after Bach’s death a scholar called Christian Shubart’s wrote a book on key characteristics and described G major like this: ” Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love – in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed in this key.” What wonderful words. If I can manage to achieve just a little of that in my playing of the first cello suite, I’ll be pleased.