SUITE FOR SOLO CELLO
I. Preludio-Fantasia - a Zarabanda
III. Intermezzo e Danza Finale - a Jota
The Spanish virtuoso cellist Gaspar Cassadó i Moreu was born in Barcelona and started cello at age 7. While giving a recital the child, a precocious talent, caught the attention of the father of the modern cello, Pablo Casals, who offered to teach him. With a scholarship from the city of Barcelona, the nine-year-old was shipped off to Paris to work with the master. The solo suite was written in his 20s and contains all the flash and bravura you would expect from a young musician high on his own ability. However, it is a terrific piece of music, not mere technical display. You can’t be a student of Casals without the specter of the Bach solo cello suites hanging over you, for it was Casals who single-handedly rescued them from oblivion. Like the Bach, the Cassadó work consists of stylized dance movements but with the unique flavors and spices of his native land.
The first movement is a Sarabande, an old dance form with a subtle emphasis on the second beats of the measure. It also makes references to Kodály's “Sonata for Cello Solo” and Ravel's ballet “Daphnis et Chloé.” A Sardana is a traditional circle dance from Catalonia that uses an accordion: listen for the tune artfully accompanied by the cello imitating the drone of the accordion on a separate string. The third movement starts with a ruminative intermezzo before jumping to the fiery a Jota, an 18th Century folk dance from Northern Spain and the national folk dance of Aragon. “Jota” literally means “jump” - watch the bow and listen for the castanets. The piece is fiendishly difficult and considered a rite of passage for the modern cellist. The great Hungarian cellist Janos Starker brought this piece into prominence just as Casals introduced the Bach suites before the public eye, nearly a century before.
Program notes by David Yang