Bach Suites

If it ain’t Baroque, don’t Break it? Thoughts about Playing Bach Today…. – By Inbal Segev

When I decided to record the Bach cello suites a couple of years ago, I started not by playing but by reading. I read Bach's biography, and then a few Baroque practice books (extremely dense and quite boring) and then I became inspired to change almost everything about the way I played Bach. I eventually came back to doing things the way that had been a part of my DNA after years of playing Bach the "modern" way (but improved), and I'd like to share some of my experiments with you. I never played from a manuscript copy before. The notes are difficult to decipher and so the work is slow and cumbersome. Worth it! Playing from copies of the surviving manuscripts by Anna Magdalena and Kellner taught me so [...]

17 (Not so) Random Tips for Practicing the Bach Cello Suites – by Inbal Segev

1. First play the bass line. Then add the top voice. 2. Think about voicing. 3. Sequences. 4. Find circles of fifths and enjoy them! 5. Gestures on slurs; the Baroque bow is heavier at the frog and lighter at the tip and sometimes it's beautiful to show the tapering of sound towards the tip. 6. Show where codas happen. 7. Interrupted cadence? 8. Sigh figures. 9. Be aware of the underlying harmony. 10. Echo effects (not too much!). 11. Vary bow pressure — Baroque bow is heavier on the down bow, lighter on the up bow. This can shape a passage of descending eight notes for example. They are not all equal in length and strength. 12. Gigue — breathe more. Feel like you are about to skip before [...]

B A C H S U I T E S – by Colin Carr

Bowings, beats, bass, bowings and fingerings fit together, bow distribution, bible? Articulation and Anna Magdelena Chords, cadences. common themes within each suite, comfort? Harmony, harmonics? Slurs, scales, sequences, spontaneity Understanding direction of phrases. Up bow or down bow? Intonation Tension from dissonance. tempo choices, trills Extremes? Surprise I was asked to choose a Bach related topic for this live Facebook chat, but I couldn’t think of justone. Instead I thought I would try to cover as many issues as I can think of, using this (gimmicky) chart as a starting point. I will talk about each of the sub-headings, and in doing so hope to answer a lot of questions before they have been asked! I have been playing and teaching the suites all my life. There have been countless [...]

Some Thoughts About My Bach Recordings

>When anyone approaches the Bach Cello Suites, it’s natural to begin thinking about a “correct” way to play them.   My teacher, Gregor Piatigorsky, used to say:  “Never play for the cellists in the audience - they always have a different idea.”  Start that instead with “Never play Bach for . . .” and life gets even harder! Like every young cellist of my generation, I was very influenced by the recordings of Pablo Casals.  How could I not be?  He was considered the “greatest” cellist of his day and my then teacher, Gabor Rejto, had studied with him.  And how could one deny the performances of an artist who always convinced you, at least as long as his sounds were in your ears.  I was lucky enough to play the [...]

What Makes a Baroque Cellist, part 1

I was once accused of playing like a baroque cellist. It was most certainly an accusation, and I don’t know what the coach was hoping to achieve by framing her opinion of my playing in such terms. Suffice it to say I was insulted, and the funny thing is, I don’t even know why. Okay, I was playing Brahms’s F major sonata, on a cello that had an endpin and two steel strings (the other two were wound gut). My partner was playing a Steinway M. Furthermore, and perhaps most revealing, is the fact that by the time I was being coached on this piece, during my second year of doctoral studies at New England Conservatory, I had already won a position with Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society, the nation’s [...]

Bach Suites and You – by Robert Battey

“In a work of art the intellect asks questions; it does not answer them” -Friedrich Hebbel Few tasks are more daunting than attempting to discern and convey J.S. Bach’s precise intentions for his Cello Suites.  Just playing them is hard enough, but a true and meaningful interpretation of the Suites requires an entirely different heuristic model than that of our other repertoire.  This is because the autograph of the Suites has been lost, and we are left only with several flawed and inconsistent copies.  Since there is no original source, everything, from notes to rhythms to phrasings, must be questioned. With many pieces, one can rely on the fidelity and accuracy of a high-quality edition, prepared either from autographs or composer-supervised prints.  There, you have the simple choice of either [...]

The Bach Suites, A Deep Mirror

I am posting today some thoughts regarding my upcoming performance of all the cello suites of Bach, in Barcelona, next October 6th. A “3 hour conversation with Bach,” by which I mean playing all the 6  Suites in one evening, is a rare privilege, and at the same time, an opportunity to devote months of work gazing, probing, until their is transparency in this greatest of all music given to us by the Kantor of  Leipzig. In this period of reflection, the performer’s goal and intention should be to imbue his own spirit into the depths of the pieces, and become inspired and elevated by this music of such extraordinary dimensions. After a concert a few years ago, somebody who had never heard my playing said,  “I can feel the [...]

Raising Your Self-Awareness

I recently worked with a student preparing a Bach suite for his recital. In his lesson, he was struggling with the many challenges one faces when playing Bach. A week later he performed the entire suite in studio class and I was taken aback by the dramatic improvement. He played the work with great poise, clarity, and a much higher level of solidity and intonation. I was curious about this sudden jump in playing level and asked him what his focus had been during that weeks’ preparation. His answer was that he had become much more self aware and objective of his playing. He had made a conscious effort to sit back and get a true sense of what was coming from his instrument. The result? He was better able [...]