SUITE NO. VI IN D MAJOR, BWV 1012
V. Gavottes 1 & 2
The Bach cello suites are staples for violists as well as cellists, and this was the last suite I got under my fingers. Students start these in their teens and return to them throughout their lives; I have a friend who feels Bach makes us better human beings. Considered the most challenging of the set (the sixth was writtten for a five stringed instrument called the violoncello piccolo), the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich called it a “symphony for solo cello.”
Programming the same piece with different instruments is an opportunity to directly compare the sonorities of marimba and cello. Bach’s music lends itself particularly well to transcriptions; I’ve heard this on harmonica, guitar, and flute. Surely it has something to do with not just the universality of the music but Bach’s approach to composition: you could never imagine a Beethoven string quartet on banjo. But almost any instrumental piece by Bach works well for almost any instrument. Listen for the way Bach communicates the effect of two instruments playing simultaneously with just one player.
Program notes by David Yang