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Wydawnictwo: EPR Classic
Nr katalogowy: EPRC 012
Nośnik: 2 CD+1DVD
Data wydania: grudzień 2012
EAN: 5425008377544
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Epoka muzyczna: barok
Obszar (język): niemiecki
Instrumenty: wiolonczela
Rodzaj: suita

Bach: 6 Suites for Cello Solo

EPR Classic - EPRC 012
Pieter Wispelwey, cello
Nagrody i rekomendacje
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Utwory na płycie:
Suite no.1 in G major, BWV 1007
Suite no.2 in D mino,r BWV 1008
Suite no.3 in C major, BWV 1009
Suite no.4 in E major, BWV 1010
Suite no.5 in C minor, BWV 1011
Suite no.6 in D major, BWV 1012
Temptation never dies

Around 1720, Johann Sebastian Bach composed a volume of music which went “underground” for two centuries before it became the bible for cello players. Bach wrote his Cello Suites while employed at the court of Anhalt-Köthen. Bach was engaged there to provide music for the court orchestra, which was composed almost entirely of musicians previously laid off by the nearby Prussian court. The presence of so many virtuosi apparently inspired Bach to go beyond his standard obligations, and to write experimental music in which he explored the technical and expressive possibilities of specific solo instruments. The Violin Sonatas and Partitas and the Cello Suites both appear to have emerged at a time when Bach was free from financial worry and liturgical obligation, and could devote himself to experimenting with the instruments he loved best.

It is fascinating to notice that the modern reputation of Bach’s solo violin and cello works is so different, in spite of their technical similarity and the fact that they were composed at more or less the same time. The violin Sonatas and Partitas are notoriously difficult to play, but this technical difficulty is the only obstacle for performers. The extant score in Bach’s own hand clearly indicates how the music should be played, and Bach was in all likelihood a sufficiently competent violinist to play the Sonatas and Partitas himself. In addition, the violin had become so standardized by the 18th century that there is not the slightest doubt on the instrument’s shape and number of strings.

Any serious discussion of the Cello Suites, however, is bound to become a mystery novel: there’s so much we don’t know. Many of these uncertainties derive from the fact that we don’t have a manuscript in Bach’s own hand. Modern editions are typically based on a copy prepared in the 1730’s by Bach’s second wife Anna Magdalena. This manuscript appears to have been written in great haste, and it is littered with inaccuracies which make already demanding music even more difficult to play.

In addition, there is no evidence that Bach played the cello himself; neither do we have any idea which virtuoso in the Cöthen orchestra prompted or inspired the composition of the Suites. It is not even clear whether the Suites were intended for the instrument which is presently known as the cello. The title page of the Anna Magdalena manuscript unambiguously states that the intended instrument is the “violoncello”, but the cello was not standardized in the 1720’s, and the name “violoncello” was used to denote different types of bass violins. The specification “A cinq cordes” which heads the sixth suite clearly proves that Bach went beyond the cello as we know it.

It is emblematic for our lack of knowledge about the Suites that some scientists even doubt the division of labour traditionally assumed between Mr. and Mrs. Bach: until a short time ago nobody seriously disputed Bach’s authorship, but Anna Magdalena has recently been credited as the sole composer of the suites. While this suggestion is considered to be preposterous by scholars, it was sufficiently influential to upset the Bach community.

These and many other riddles have imbued the Cello Suites with an aura of enigma and uncertainty. While some cellists have exploited this suspense, we believe it is time to address the mysteries so that we can go back to the most beautiful solo music ever written. That is why we went to Oxford, the capital of mystery solving since Inspector Morse. But Oxford’s magnificent Magdalen College also boasts one of the most eminent Bach scholars of our times, professor Laurence Dreyfus. Together with his equally eminent colleague, professor John Butt of Glasgow University, Laurence kindly volunteered to unveil and solve some of the mysteries.

A concrete occasion for this scholarly detective labour was the marathon concert with all six Suites which Pieter Wispelwey played on May 28th in the Holywell Music Room, Europe’s oldest purpose-built concert room (1748). Wispelwey has recorded the suites twice, and especially his second recording was a critically acclaimed bestseller in 1998, and is still regarded by many as the standard of performance. The Oxford concert, however, marked the dress rehearsal for Wispelwey’s third recording, which you are holding now. It was made in celebration of Wispelwey’s 50th birthday (on September 25th 2012), but also because Pieter was unable to resist the relentless temptations of his favourite music any longer; because – as he put it – the appetite, the greed, and the desire to become more intimately acquainted with Bach’s story and characters never dry up.

For this celebratory third recording, Pieter wanted to go further than before. So in addition to addressing questions pertaining to the Suites’ authorship, genesis, and intended instrument, Dreyfus and Butt (who are leading musicians themselves) were also engaged to help Pieter find plausible and playable solutions to a number of fascinating performance issues.

For the Suites are not what they seem. When you take them at face value, they are no more than a sequence of five baroque dances introduced by a prelude. But there is no face value in Bach’s solo compositions for cello. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the identical ordering – all Suites consist of a Prelude, an Allemande, a Courante, a Sarabande, and a Gigue (as well as a variable 5th dance) – or the absence of disruptively outsized movements such as the D Minor Violin Partita’s Chaconne (which is longer than all the other movements of the D Minor Partita combined): the Cello Suites represent a much more audacious and experimental enterprise than their sibling compositions for solo violin.

Observe, for instance, that the identical structure of the Suites obscures the fact that Bach is gradually eluding the cello medium from Suite 1 to 6. After having written three “normal” Suites – an innocent, folk-like 1st, an unexpectedly sombre 2nd, a majestic 3rd –, Bach progressively transcends the instrument by composing the 4th Suite in E Flat Major (a key which does not accord well with the cello), by prescribing scordatura for the 5th (the obligatory retuning of the A-string to G), and by invoking a smaller instrument with an added E-string for the 6th.

But the Suites’ vagaries also perspire on the level of the individual movements, which rarely adhere to the metre and other conventions of the dances on which they are based. A point of interest during Wispelwey’s interaction with Dreyfus and Butt was for instance the Allemande of the 6th Suite, which contains too many notes for a traditional Allemande. Yet, this abundance of notes only constitutes half of the notes which Bach conjures up in the listener’s head. How should one play this constructional marvel to bring out all the notes – physical and virtual – and to do justice to the movement’s exceptional lyricism? How does one perform the personal grief which percolates through the Prelude to Suite nr. 2? And how “naughtily” should one play the Bourrées of the 3rd and especially the 4th Suite, which are among the most comical pieces Bach ever wrote?

The DVD which documents the Oxford preparation for this recording – shot in the historical ambiance of 17th-century Wadham college and 15th century Magdalen college – seeks to address the mysteries of the Suites in an attempt to solve (some of) them. It bears testimony to the unsurpassable eminence of this music that so much remains to be discovered in it for a man who has played them close to a thousand times on stage.

Stefan Grondelaers

Pieter Wispelwey jest jednym z najwybitniejszych wiolonczelistów naszych czasów. To jego trzecie nagranie 6 Suit na wiolonczelę solo Jana Sebastiana Bacha. Może należałoby zadać pytanie – Dlaczego kolejne nagranie tej samej muzyki? Czas i badania przynoszą stale nowe informacje dotyczące twórczości i instrumentarium bachowskiego. A zatem niech i nagrania podążają w duchem tego naukowego czasu. A poza tym każde nagranie oddaje w pewien sposób rozwój indywidualny muzyka. Trzecia odsłona Suit w czasie długiej kariery Wispelweya doskonale obrazuje jego ewoluujące podejście do tych dzieł. Ponadto dołączona płyta DVD, która ukazuje Wispelweya w muzycznej i edukacyjnej interakcji z uznanymi badaczami muzyki baroku: Laurence'a Dreyfusa i Johna Butta, nadaje temu wydaniu zupełnie nową rangę. Nic nigdy nie jest poznane do końca. Nawet muzyka Bacha …
Alina Mądry - Audio Video 04-2013

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