Suites

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 4) – An Interview with Colin Carr

  Two of my favorite recordings of the Third Britten Suite are both by Colin Carr, with whom I studied during a summer in high school and then years later as a doctoral student.  On both occasions I brought the Third Suite to my lessons. […]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 3) – An Introduction to The Third Suite

  Britten chose to build his Third Suite for Cello around four pre-existing Russian themes: three tunes taken from Tchaikovsky’s volume of folk-song arrangements, and the Kontakion, the Byzantine chant for the dead taken from the Russian Orthodox liturgy.  Rostropovich considered himself Russian Orthodox, and one can appreciate the impact of Britten presenting a score based on this theme as a gift to the cellist in Moscow.  The Third Suite also serves as a dual tribute to Shostakovich.  The second movement, Marcia, includes the signature “anapest” rhythm found in Shostakovich’s symphonies (“da-da-DUM”), and in a subtle yet ingenious linking, the final statement of the Kontakion in C minor employs the notes C-B-Eb-D: a reordered allusion to Shostakovich’s famous four-note D-S-C-H signature (D-Eb-C-B). […]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 2) An Interview with Steven Doane

    My first live encounter with a Britten suite was an in-your-face experience.  Steven Doane played the First Suite, Op. 72 as a “dry run” for a group of students as we crammed into an Eastman studio with barely enough floor space to not get poked with an upbow.  Mr. Doane’s association with the piece has only grown, leading to a brand new recording of the complete suites to be released this year.  I asked Mr. Doane about his thoughts and experiences playing this demanding work over the years. […]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 1)

Cellists have as much reason as anyone to celebrate the upcoming Benjamin Britten centenary, if not more so.  The five major cello works he wrote for Mstislav Rostropovich – the sonata, the Symphony Concerto, and the three solo suites – have been taken up in short order as standard repertoire.  By my unofficial count there are twenty recordings of the complete cello suites on the market, not to mention sixteen “incomplete” cycles of one or two suites here and there.    […]

The Bach Suites, A Deep Mirror — by Lluís Claret

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 [...]