Distant echoes, the vast roof overhead - I feel a slight chill and sense of awe when I walk into a cathedral. I get the same feeling of immensity when I listen to Bach’s sixth cello suite, a work the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich called “a symphony for solo cello.”
Each of Bach’s six suites has a defining character: innocence (Suite No.1 in G Major), mournfulness (Suite No.2 in D minor), elation (Suite No.3 in C Major), urbanity (Suite No.4 in Eb Major), angst (Suite No.5 in C Minor) and, for No. 6, majesty and a kind of terrible joy.
This suite is the largest and most difficult of the six by an order of magnitude. Considered the Everest of cello playing, Bach's tuning instructions indicate it was actually composed for a 5-stringed instrument (perhaps the violoncello piccolo) which makes playing it on four strings a Herculean task.
Bach’s own advice to a student was notable in how unhelpful it was. “Playing....” he said “is nothing remarkable... all one has to do is hit the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself."
Eliana Razzino Yang will perform Bach’s sixth suite on the NCMF Winter Baroque concert (streamed). The program includes a world premiere by composer Ania Vu based on themes from the sixth suite and also music by Veracini for violin and cello with Nurit Pacht on violin. (You can find more on Ania Vu, her work, and a conversation with me on the post from last week here.)
As for the actual concert, it will be streamed on Sunday, 20 December at 3:00 PM. Check out www.NewburyportChamberMusic.org for details. In place of tickets, we are asking for voluntary donations in tiers - $10, $20, $30, or more – pay what you can afford. Consider enjoying this holiday event with friends or family - no matter where they are – by forwarding the link to them.
In the meantime, everyone please stay safe and warm,
On selected nights of the festival, I’ve asked past artists to choose a surprise Youtube performance as a treat for our audience. Each selection will be preceded by a short introduction with the artist.
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