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Magic and Magicians of Music: JS Bach's "Cello Suites"

音楽の魔法と魔術師たち J.S.バッハ「無伴奏チェロ組曲」

Feel free to enjoy! Life with concerts
File.8 JS Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suite
Kozaburo Mori ( music writer)

In 1890, 13-year-old Casals discovered an old sheet of music in a music store in Barcelona. When he turned the page of the little-known sheet music, the magic of music enveloped him in an instant, both intensely and gently.
Rediscovering the famous piece "Unaccompanied Cello Suite".

Although he has adapted it somewhat, he is a musician who recognized the artistic value of this collection of songs, which at the time was treated as little more than "practice pieces for improving musical instrument performance," and made them known to the world with his own wonderful performances. This is Pablo Casals.

``Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello'' composed by ``Father of Music'' Johann Sebastian Bach.
Six suites each consisting of six songs. It was created about 300 years ago.
There is hardly a cellist who does not play this piece. On the contrary, the ultimate dream of every cellist is to play this piece in front of Bach in heaven and receive praise. It is often referred to as the "cello's Old Testament."
Bach is having a hard time too...

*JS Bach (1685-1750)

This song is probably familiar to many people as it is often used as background music. What I would like to draw attention to is the fact that it is frequently used as music for contemporary dance. In other words, cutting-edge sensibilities and audiences need the power of music composed 300 years ago.

Anyway, Casals' Bach recorded in the 1930s is wonderful. A strict Bach who is said to be like a seeker. I wanted to experience Casals' live performance at least once. That is one of my personal dreams that will never come true.

*Pablo Casals (1876-1973)

What if Casals had never encountered Bach's scores?
Try asking such a nonsense question. Although it has passed a long time ago, there is a musician who I believe would have rediscovered this masterpiece. Baroque cello master Anna Bylsma sadly passed away this July. He is one of the leading figures in the movement known as ``period instrument performance'' and ``original instrument performance,'' which became popular in the late 20th century.
The numerous famous recordings and performances created with the idea of restoring the true nature of a piece of music by incorporating the instruments and performance styles of the period in which it was composed completely changed the classical music industry.
With a harpsichord instead of a piano.
The orchestra is smaller and more lively.
Fresh and light Bach! Mozart! Beethoven! As if the dust that has accumulated over time has been wiped away.
It's fun to use old instruments but still feel new!
Bylsma's Bach, which appeared under such circumstances, naturally had a very different impression from what he had been accustomed to.

*Anna Bylsma (1934-2019)

Rather than "singing" romantically, the performance feels like it's talking to you. The original dance-like character is boldly incorporated, and the tempo is fast. Above all, the multi-melodic structure of the piece is revealed, and the more you listen to it, the more interesting it becomes, and the more you listen to it, the more you are drawn into the universe of Bach.
"It's like it's forever unfinished."
This is what a friend of mine said when reviewing Bylsma, and that's exactly what he said at the concerts I've met many times.
The joy and bewilderment of witnessing the moment when music is born right now. It's kind of free...the atmosphere.

I think my encounter with Bylsma changed the way I listen to music. The way I listened to it was a bit authoritarian, and I was looking for something a little more "ultimate."

*Anna Bylsma (1934-2019)

I used to wonder how it would be to record ``unaccompanied music'' while still in my 20s, or to record Bach two or three times, but now I'm at a loss. In fact, I really like young Bach. In addition to viola and guitar, the ``Unaccompanied Cello Suite'' performed on marimba and saxophone is also very welcome. Everyone is seriously trying Bach, and if the sounds are different, you might find a new charm in the piece.
Come to think of it, when I listened to Casals' performance again after the Bylsma experience, I began to feel a delicate and sensitive side that I had not been able to hear before. Just as music changes, so do my ears.

Concerts of all of Bach's ``Unaccompanied Cello Suites'' will be held twice in November and December. The performer will be Hidemi Suzuki, Japan's proud baroque cellist and conductor. I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of ``now'' he will give us, as he studied under Bylsma and has a wealth of experience in the home of early music.
I'm not sure if you'll be able to hear the lighthearted chatter, but you'll be able to enjoy the sight of the baroque cello, an instrument with no pins that stick into the floor, held between your knees as you play.
I would definitely like to come along to pay my respects to Mr. Bylsma.


Master Bylsma had been in poor health for a long time and passed away without coming to Japan for a while. I'll never forget the time we met in front of the dressing room after the concert.
The feeling of hands signing autographs and shaking hands.
When I tried to get an autograph from his wife, violinist Vera Beth, he chatted with someone who seemed to be a friend. I was hesitant and waiting, but she gently urged me, ``It's okay, just ask.''
I received many treasures.

This event has ended.
The rise of early music VI
Hidemi Suzuki Ultimate Bach
1st complete concert of unaccompanied cello suites
[Date and time] November 2nd (Saturday) 14:00-16:00 (doors open at 13:30)
[Venue] Tsurumi Civic Cultural Center Salvia Hall 3F Music Hall

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