by Daniel Hathaway
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his six solo cello suites between 1717 and 1723, when he was employed as Kapellmeister by the Duke of Anhalt-Köthen, but it was only much later that these works became widely known and hailed for their profundity.
Credit Pablo Casals, who bought a second-hand score of the pieces in Barcelona in 1890 at the age of 13, and worked on them for a dozen years before daring to play them in public. He preserved his performances between 1936 and 1939 in a recording that the Library of Congress chose earlier this year for inclusion in the National Recording Registry.
Performances of the six suites have become something of an Everest for cellists. The Cleveland Orchestra’s Dane Johansen hiked the 600-mile Camino de Santiago in 2014, recording the suites in 36 churches along the pilgrimage route. More conventionally but no less impressively, Yo-Yo Ma played all six in one evening at Blossom in August of 2018.
Now, Apollo’s Fire principal cello René Schiffer has decided to take the suites on, but in a different format and from a special point of view. He’ll perform and record them two at a time beginning this weekend. [Read more…]