Along with a passion for early music is the enjoyment and love of music written for my favourite instrument, the violoncello. Often shortened to Cello. I would ride through storm and tempest to attend performances played by renowned modern cellists such as Steven Isserlis and Peter Wispelway, especially when they perform with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Music expresses emotions and ideas in significant forms with rhythm melody, harmony and colour elements contributing to creating an art of sound. It can have both darkness and light, as opposing forces in its make up, highlighting its ability to represent both evil and good.
It creates camaraderie, and has been proven to have many therapeutic qualities, including providing an atmosphere wherein calm can prevail in a very busy world.
Over the centuries the instruments that have been played and the voices that have either sung, or narrated to music, have been a powerful force affecting the lives of many people.
English actor Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of 1938 about an invasion of the world by aliens, against a backing of a music show terrified millions. In more recent times Elton John’s rendition of the poignant song Candles in the Wind at Princess Diana’s funeral touched the hardest heart.
More recently I have enjoyed the innovative brilliance of the acclaimed 2Cellos, Croatian musicians Luke Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, who performed with Elton John on his 2011 tour.
If you haven’t caught up with this divine duo yet, now’s the time.
When it emerged during the seventeenth century from a more modest position among a group of instrumentalists, the art of violoncello playing became valued first in Italy, which became overpowered by the love of opera, while Germany and France went on to cultivate its solo playing as the art form.
If you want to understand the style of music originally designed for the cello as a solo instrument, you could read The Cello Suites an extraordinary tale, beautifully crafted and terrifically told. It is about an epic quest undertaken by Canadian rock critic Eric Siblin. a great book about the search for a Baroque masterpiece, a score specifically written for the cello.
It seems Eric Siblin had an epiphany of sorts when he attended a recital of J S Bach’s six Cello Suites, falling completely under the spell of this classic musical masterpiece.
He became infatuated, deciding to go on his own quest to learn all about the works and their composer, and to record his findings.
By all accounts he certainly got more than he bargained for. Along the way he unravels three centuries of mystery, intrigue, history, politics and passion and his compelling work is part biography, part music history, and part literary mystery as it follows three diverse trails on an ever evolving story.
The first is a dramatic narrative featuring eighteenth century composer Johann Sebastian Bach and his missing manuscript; the second traces the journey of Spanish musician Pablo Casals and his rise to fame playing the suites; and the third is Eric Siblin’s own discovery of, and infatuation with the transcendental quality of the music itself.
“It was a powerful experience for me,” he said. “It was like being struck by lightning in a musical way.”
His journey takes him from the back streets of Barcelona to a Belgian mansion, and bombed-out German palace.
He has interviews with renowned modern day cellists Mischa Maisky, Anner Bylsma, and Pieter Wispelwey. He digs into archives, follow festivals, attends conferences, and investigates certain cemeteries.
He also takes cello lessons himself all in pursuit of uncovering the mysteries that continue to haunt this piece of music more than 250 years after the composer’s death.
He turned up some fascinating details about Bach….”His life wasn’t as deadly dull as most people imagine it to be” said Siblin.
Up until he was ten years old Johnann Sebastian Bach was taught by his father, however following his death in 1695 he and his brother Johann Christoph studied organ in Ohrdruf and he also developed an interest in organ building.
He was a Court Composer at Weimar for two ruling Grand Dukes 1708 – 1717 and then, at Cöthen for a youthful Prince Leopold. He wrote works for small court orchestra, including toccatas, capriccios, fantasias, fugues, variations, suites, sonatas, and miscellaneous shorter pieces for teaching.
Bach’s six acclaimed Brandenburg Concertos were dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721. In 1723 he was employed as Cantor for the Choir School of St. Thomas in Leipzig where he was given responsibility for the music at five principal city churches.
This is the period when he composed a huge amount of choral works and also took charge of the University Collegium musicum. His collected works were first published by the Bach-Gesellschaft (Bach Society), 1851-1900 using the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Thematic-Systematic Listing of the Works of J.S. Bach) devised by Wolfgang Schmieder.
On September 5, 2015 acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma played the Six Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London without music. He played for nearly three hours in what was hailed as a truly remarkable performance.
Carolyn McDowall The Culture Concept Circle, 2009 – 2011, 2016