Recorded October 1988 and April 1989
Suite for solo cello No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009
About Suites for Solo Cello BWV 1007-1012 on 'bach-cantatas.com'
The Suite in C major is probably the most popular of Bach's six suites for solo cello, among cellists and listeners alike. How could one resist the work's mix of nobility, exuberance, and relative contrapuntal simplicity? Casals, who more than any other performer brought these suites to the forefront of the cello repertory, found in it a heroic quality. Yet this suite also has close ties to its brethren. The Prelude recalls the discursive improvisatory flavor of the second suite, but opens with a descending figure and a mood of bright sunshine instead of the study in tragedy and tension that the second suite undertakes from the beginning. The Prelude also makes brilliant use of a mighty pedal point; a single note is held in the bass register while a series of progressively richer and richer figures build tension, pushing harder and harder for resolution. A similar figure is used to heighten a sense of pathos in the Prelude to the St. John Passion. Here, however, the pedal point develops instead into an expression of great warmth and happiness.
After the Prelude come a lively Allemande, a Courante, a Sarabande, a double Bourree, and a Gigue. The Sarabande proceeds in a series of triple and quadruple stops that offer the cellist plenty of room for gutsy expressiveness and at the same time outline the implied polyphony that so fascinates those who hear these works. For this suite, as in the fourth suite, Bach uses a pair of Bourrees for the galant element. These reinforce the sense of buoyant optimism that pervades the work, though a sudden minor-key turn in the second Bourree reminds us that no triumph is ever complete. But the final Gigue restores the lightness of this bouncy, virtuosic suite, perhaps the most idiomatic to the cello of all six suites
- James Liu (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
Although BA and CA coexist so peacefully beside each other in the alphabet, I am afraid that when the first jagged flashes of flute and clarinet rend the serene C major skies of Bach's Gigue, your hand will rush to switch off the record player. I hope my plea does not come too late to stop this from happening. It would be such a shame if one fateful turn of the knob were to close off the new and fascinating sound-world just opened to you by those first flashes. Lie back and relax, listen, look, feel and remember the future; try to foresee the past. Let Zeus throw down from the new Olympus those shattering bolts of sound. Let the purifying spiritual storm (not just Esprit rude/Esprit doux) rage around you. You will be richly rewarded.
As the door opens to a new visual and aural panorama full of the richest forms, colours, movement and sound, so you will find yourself becoming more open. The new sounds, the tangled network of rapid figurations, the fleeting, almost imperceptible motifs, the insistent multiple rhythms, the sounds cascading from the heights to the depths, all this will gradually penetrate you, take on meaningful forms, acquire a language and gestures, articulating harmonic, rhythmic and melodic space. Instruments or pairs of instruments become characters engaged in conversation - dramatic, ironic, emotional, graceful, tempestuous, conciliatory, exuberant (Triple Duo). Flute and cello will transport you to the weightless, floating and multifarious movement of the Enchanted Preludes. (How near this admirable piece comes to the ideal Claude Debussy sought for his orchestral piece Jeux, written for "un orchestre sans pieds".) In Esprit rude/Esprit doux perhaps the static, almost ritualistic hard tonal surfaces and the soft, elusive, quicksilver strings of notes are a disguised character-painting of the work's dedicatee: "A Pierre Boulez, pour son soixantieme anniversaire". Elliott Carter, a former college-teacher of Greek and Latin, also had something else in mind with the title: he refers to the hard and soft vowels in Greek. The two words "hexekos-ton etos" (sixty years) begin with respectively the "hard" and the "soft" spirit (spiritus asper and spiritus lenis). The other birthday piece, Riconoscenza, with its juxtaposition of warm Italianita and gruff gesture, could refer to the character of the grand old man among Italian composers, Goffredo Petrassi, to whom the piece was dedicated for his 80th birthday. With the most economical of means, the violin's lines construct a multidimensional polyphonal space, which opens wide to the listener, welcoming him in, pushing the disappearing point of the perspective ever further back - maybe to infinity.
And it is through this spatial conception of the individual lines, through the many-layered musical thought and its perspective, that we are brought back to the point of departure, J. S. Bach's C major Cello Suite, which we had first seen to be simply a beautiful blue sky. Now in this blue expanse we can suddenly recognize an infinite variety of forms, colours, gestures, shapes, floating dance-steps, perspectives, as in the "trom-pe-1'oeil"- paintings of the Baroque era. The even flow of the single line of the Prelude becomes a richly articulated tonal area, the many and various voices rising up and disappearing at irregular intervals.
In writing this letter I am amazed to see that I have used almost the same vocabulary to describe both the old and the new music, that the tonal worlds to which I have sought to take you, with enticement and with force, are not so foreign to us. Rather they are worlds which already lie dormant within us, simply awaiting discovery.
Enjoy your voyage of discovery.
Yours, Heinz Holliger