Recorded December 1991
Suite for solo cello No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007
About Suites for Solo Cello BWV 1007-1012 on 'bach-cantatas.com'
It is thought that Bach wrote his six suites for unaccompanied cello between 1717 and 1723, while he was in the employ of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen and had two superb solo cellists, Bernard Christian Linigke and Christian Ferdinand Abel, at his disposal. However, the earliest copy of the suites dates from 1726, and no autographs survive. Thus a chronological order is difficult to prove, though one guesses that these suites were composed in numerical order from the way that they gradually evolve and deepen, both technically and musically.
A Baroque suite is typically a collection of dance movements, usually in binary form with each half repeated. Common elements of the suite were the Allemande (German dance), a moderately slow duple-meter dance; the Courante, a faster dance in triple meter; the Sarabande, a Spanish-derived dance in a slow triple meter with emphasis on the second beat; and a Gigue (Jig), which is rapid, jaunty, and energetic. Bach took these typical dance forms and abstracted them, and then added a free-form, almost improvisatory Prelude which sets the tone for each suite, and a galanterie, an additional dance interposed between Sarabande and Gigue. (In the first two suites, Bach uses a pair of Minuets.) With these dances, Bach experimented and created the first, and arguably still the finest, solo works for a relatively new instrument.
The first suite, in G major, gives the feel of innocent simplicity, and serves as a marvelous opening to these extraordinary works. The Prelude recalls the C major Prelude which opens Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Each piece sets a remarkable atmosphere with no melodies, only strong rhythmic patterns, cunningly evolving harmonies, and evocative textures. Bach uses short, arpeggiated phrases to build larger-scale crescendos and decrescendos, and these phrases in turn aggregate into still larger structures, evoking an endlessly more complicated fractal pattern. This quality would become a characteristic of Bach's cello writing, along with a distinctive rhythmic quality far removed from the character of the original dances. Bach's suiite may have been inspired by viol writing in France and cello writing in Italy, but there was nothing like it before the first suite, and little like it after, except for the five suites that followed.
- James Liu (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
An almost inconceivable thought: What would the music of the last three centuries be like if there had never been a J.S. Bach? An equally inconceivable thought: a composer who has never studied the music of Bach. And most inconceivable of all: a composer rejects the music of Bach.
"The older I get, the greater my estimation and admiration of the great Bach. To me his art stands above all else." Sandor Veress wrote these words in a letter late in life. Bach's theoretical universe was a lifelong standard against which he measured all - even the most radical -creative activity. Despite his admiration, he never toyed with neobaroque or neoclassical writing, for he found both movements too superficial to genuinely tie in with tradition. Instead, he tried to explore how Bach created immense regions of sound out of the tiniest configurations of notes, spaces containing all that is musically conceivable to the human mind. Indeed, writing for melodic solo instruments (violin, cello) is the most revealing test of a composer's ability to design vast imaginary and polyphonic spaces.
The Solo Sonata for violin was written in 1935 for the Hungarian Odon Partos, who was to become one of the most important figures in the musical life of Israel upon his emigration. The complex counterpoint of this sonata, which rounds up the first group of published works by Sandor Veress (1st String Quartet and a series of Sonatinas), struck an extremely independent tone in Hungarian music. Following the solo pieces written for violin by Reger, Ysaye and Hindemith, the sonata had a particulary strong impact, pointing more toward later solo sonatas by Bartok and Bernd Alois Zimmermann than toward the earlier models.
After emigrating to Switzerland in 1949, Veress became interested in the Viennese school. Works of the early fifties such as the 2nd Symphony, the Piano Concerto, and the Trio for Strings charted new regions of sound that were enhanced by an intensity of gesture and sharpened chromatics.
The Solo Sonata for cello, composed in Baltimore in 1967, belongs to a much later period and is the last of an impressive series of works (Concerto for string quartet and orchestra, Passacaglia concertante, Musica concertante, Elegie). The three movements, Dialogue, Monologue and Epilogue reveal the expressive scope of a compelling discourse of sound that moves from a richly articulated Dialogue to submersion in the loneliness of a Monologue from which it seeks to escape in the wild revolt of the Epilogue.
The essence of Veress's musical thought has been distilled in the Trio for Strings of 1954. Here the precarious balance between complex, formally perfected composition and spontaneous force-fulness of expression has been achieved with seemingly effortless elegance. One must bow in admiration to the composer's success in organically integrating important elements of serial technique in his musical language.
Only now, perhaps, can we appreciate how important it was to write such independent, such undogmatic works as this Trio at a time when the Darmstadt School, at the height of its influence, eschewed the future of the music of Bartok and his followers. With these compositions Veress broke new ground for his former Hungarian pupils, Kurtag and Ligeti, and encouraged his Swiss pupils to think independently.
Sandor Veress was born in 1907 in Kolozsvar, Hungary (today Cluij, Rumania). He studied piano with Bartok and composition with Kodaly. Early on, with his bold 1st String Quartet (1931) and his complex 2nd String Quartet (1936/37), Veress had already found an independent language next to Bartok and Kodaly. After taking over Kodaly's master class in composition at the Academy of Music in Budapest, he became the most prominent composerin postwar Hungary.(His pupils included Gyorgy Ligeti and Gyorgy Kurtag.)
Unwilling to submit to the cultural dictates of Stalinism, Veress chose to emigrate in 1949. As a teacher at the conservatory and later full professor at the University of Berne, he exercised a profound influence on an entire generation of young Swiss musicians. Soon after emigrating, he found new impulses in the Viennese school and in the paintings of Paul Klee.
Sandor Veress, who came to Switzerland in 1949, died in Berne on March 4, 1992. On December 12, 1991, he was finally granted Swiss citizenship, 17 years after he first applied for it.
His most important works (in addition to the above-mentioned String Quartets) are Sancti Augustini Psalmus contra partem Donaf/(1944), Threnos, in memoriam Bela 6a/td/c(1945), Symphony No. 2 (Minneapolitana) (1953), Concertos for violin (1939), piano (1952), string quartet and orchestra (1961), clarinet (1982), Hommage a Paul Klee for 2 pianos and string orchestra and harp (1964), Musica concertante for 12 solo strings (1966), Songs of the Seasons for a cappella choir (1967), Solo Sonata for cello (1964), Das Glasklangespiel (H. Hesse) for choir and small orchestra (1978), Orbis tonorum for 12 instruments (1986). Veress's work is published by Edizioni Suvini-Zerboni (Milano). His manuscripts are preserved at the Paul Sacher Archive in Basel.