My vocation as a musician centers around playing great classical music in formal presentations in concert halls, but I also enjoy playing house concerts and school programs. I love the informality, the intimate settings, and the opportunity to tell the audience about what I’m about to play and then answer their questions afterwards. I value such opportunities both because I love sharing what I do and inviting audience members deeper into the music, and because I learn so much from their questions and comments. I can never again hear music outside the framework of my decades of training, knowledge and experience, but most people I’m performing for don’t have that. They may have less knowledge or familiarity than I do, but they also have an auditory innocence and freshness I can never know. Through such conversations, I can get a glimpse of their experience, what they heard and what it meant to them, and that helps keep me fresh and inspired — and let’s face it, when someone is visibly moved by my playing, and tells me so…well, that definitely inspires me.
My plan is to go through all six Bach Suites, one movement at a time, systematically and in order, studying, scrutinizing, and inviting myself to either refine my established interpretation or create a new one. I will write about the process and the results and post a recording — most likely a video — of my performance. Occasionally, I may do two different performances, or I may do a miniature lecture-recital. Each movement and my most current experience of it will determine the form, content and rate of the postings.
The world does not need this. At any given time, there are dozens of recordings and performers editions available of the Bach Suites. Every cellist plays them, as well as many other instrumentalists. Currently, there is an excellent book by Eric Siblin, The Cello Suites, which is gaining wide readership. A search on Amazon.com for “Bach Suites for cello” yields 7,504 results, (with undoubtedly many duplicates) including CDs and DVDs, MP3 downloads by movement, books, sheet music (including Kindle editions), versions for other instruments and even such miscellany as sculptures of the Maestro himself. Pretty overwhelming. Also, I am not going to even pretend to be doing something scholarly, definitive, or even especially thorough. No, none of that; this is personal.
That’s not to say that I’m unqualified to be scholarly or rigorous. I have a Doctorate in cello performance and have been playing professionally for over 30 years. It’s just that I’m not interested in doing something like that, at least not right now. I’ve been living with this music for decades, long enough to see the prevailing stylistic fashions evolve, long enough for my technique to have undergone more than one shakedown, and long enough to feel like I have something to say — and likely not the same thing I said in past performances. I’m going to endeavor to explain enough that an interested non-musician can follow me, as I would in a house concert, but I’m not going to consciously avoid comments that might seem directed towards students or peers. My primary motivation is the fueling of my own inspiration, the care and feeding of my interpretive muse, and the joy of consummating a creative process. I practice this music continually, as do most cellists, but the preparation of a piece is not truly complete until it is performed.
People love this music and I love this music. I want to engage with it in a new way, and I invite anyone who wants to join me to come along for the ride.