Schroeder Hall Opens


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Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University

Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University

Superstars were out in force Saturday evening, 23 August 2014, to open the new Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center [in Rohnert Park, CA] with an organ recital, one of a series of showcase events on the new music hall’s first day. The recital was preceded by Santa Rosa pianist Jeffrey Kahane playing Beethoven and Chopin and followed by pianist David Benoit’s tribute to Charlie Brown.

The first superstar was the organ itself, a Baroque-style tracker organ – meaning the pipes’ valves are opened and closed by mechanical pushrods connected to the keys of the keyboards – built by famed organ builder John Brombaugh in 1972. It’s considered a masterpiece of organ building.

The second was James David Christie, world renowned as one of the finest organists of his generation. He’s the organist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and has won numerous international prizes for his playing.

The group of composers who wrote the program’s music were all superstars as well. Georg Böhm (1661-1733) wrote the oceanic Preludium in C Major. A piece by an anonymous Dutch composer from the sixteenth century was like a walk through a spring meadow. Jan Sweelinck (1562-1621) wrote the mystical polyphony of his Ricercar that turned from empyreal to earthily playful at the end. Johann Buttstett (1666-1727) wrote a Fugue in E minor that shimmered like images in a hall of mirrors. Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707), one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s teachers, was at his ponderous and stormy best, while Bach’s second cousin, Johann Bernhard Bach (1676-1749), wrote the Ciaconna in B-flat Major that beautifully showed off the organ’s various possibilities.

Christie finished the concert with that old warhorse, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565). He notched up the tempo, played it with enormous verve, and showed that it doesn’t have to be Halloween music.

The final superstar was Schroeder Hall itself, an acoustically perfect space for the world class organ. Christie chose these pieces to showcase the instrument, turning its pipes and stops and timbres like jewels reflecting sunlight. He got a well-deserved standing ovation, and the most common word heard among the crowd, as it filed out, was, “Wow!”

At a media event on the previous Monday, Christie said that the Brombaugh Opus 9 organ, with its 1,248 handmade pipes and all-wood cases, is not only a beautiful musical instrument, it’s historically important, too. When Brombaugh built it in 1972 for a Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio, he designed it to replicate the clear voice of the great Baroque organs of northern Europe rather than the neo-Baroque style that was in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s and was common in church organs of the time. “It launched a reawakening of interest in that earlier construction,” Christie said.

Interestingly, Christie mentioned that when the Brombaugh Opus 9 was installed in Toledo, he was eighteen, traveled there to hear it, and had a chance to play it, so this world-famous organist and this instrument came full circle at Schroeder Hall’s inaugural recital.

Among others, the hall was funded by Jean Schulz, the widow of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. The Santa Rosa cartoonist’s characters included Schroeder, a tow-headed kid who loved playing Beethoven on his toy piano. The foyer of Schroeder Hall features many original cartoon panels featuring the young pianist at his keyboard. The Brombaugh organ was donated by B. J. and Bebe Cassin. Mr. Cassin is a Bay Area venture capitalist who invested early in many of the high-tech businesses that now rule Silicon Valley.

The Opus 9 sits high on its own balcony above the stage. The ceiling is high and vaulted, and the sound flows over the seats to the rear of the hall, which is curved like half of a cylinder. This allows the sound to refocus itself over the seating, adding rich texture and reverberation to the organ’s clarity of line. The walls leading from front to rear hold hardwood chests containing velour panels attached to rollers. Motors allow the panels to be pulled out or tucked away to “tune” the hall to the sounds of instruments, whether organ, piano, brass choir, voice, or chamber ensemble. The entire hall is an instrument and part of the action.

Some of the most savvy designers in the country took part in the planning of the $9.5 million recital chamber. The architecture was designed by BAR Architects of San Francisco, with acoustical expertise by Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago and theatrical consulting by Auerbach Pollock Friedlander of San Francisco. Structural and civil engineering were by Santa Rosa firms.

Jeff CoxThe [Santa Rosa] Press Democrat

Schulenberg Explores C. P. E. Bach


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SchulenbergcropWagner College music historian David Schulenberg’s new book, The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, will be published in September 2014 by the University of Rochester Press, a partner of the humanities publishing house Boydell & Brewer.

Of the four sons of J. S. Bach who became composers, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) was the most prolific, the most original and the most influential, both during and after his lifetime. This first full-length English-language study critically surveys his output, examining not only the famous keyboard sonatas and concertos but also the songs, chamber music, and sacred works, many of which resurfaced in 1999 and have not previously been evaluated. The book also outlines the composer’s career from his student days at Leipzig and Frankfurt (Oder) to his nearly three decades as court musician to Prussian King Frederick “the Great” and his last twenty years as cantor at Hamburg.

Focusing on the composer’s choices within his social and historical context, the book shows how C. P. E. Bach deliberately avoided his father’s style while adopting the manner of his Berlin colleagues, derived from Italian opera. A new perspective on the composer emerges from the demonstration that C. P. E. Bach, best known for his virtuoso keyboard works, refashioned himself as a writer of vocal music and popular chamber compositions in response to changing cultural and aesthetic trends. Supplementary texts and musical examples are included on a companion website.

The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach follows the publication of Schulenberg’s The Music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (University of Rochester Press, 2010) as well as several collections of musical scores by Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach edited by Schulenberg.

Wagner College

Re: Generation


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Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones

Nas in the building
Premier‘s in the building
This is how we redefine, the music
Let’s go

Yeah, ya’ll know I gets it on, sip on Dom
Clear the throat, wet the palate
Compose a ballet, then expose a rare talent
The kick drum will have you numb, the snare‘s valid
That’s how Premier styles it
Yeah ya’ll know he gets it on, that’s a given
Every song I’ve written, make the sky clear blue
Like the beginning scenes of The Simpsons
Dominions of the British Empire
We’ll listen to Bach, with tea and biscuits
Preem revisits, songs centuries old
Hip-Hop; symphony’s orchestras out cold with it
You know the flow’s administered
By the deputy, rhyme prime-minister
Sir Nas, I’m certified
Please be seated and your shirt and tie, dresses on
Arrive early, when the curtains rise, bet it’s on
A certain etiquette involved with this
Unlike any other music genre is, bring the drama in

Rap Genius Regeneration Music Project

C. P. E. Bach in Frankfurt an der Oder


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"Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach" Concert Hall

“Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach” Concert Hall

In his autobiography of 1773, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote, “After completing secondary school in Leipzig at the St. Thomas School, I was awarded rights to study at the University level, first in Leipzig and then in Frankfurt on the Oder. While in Frankfurt, I composed works for an academy that I directed whenever public celebrations required music.” In recognition of his contributions to its musical life in the eighteenth century, the city of Frankfurt has dedicated a concert hall to C. P. E. Bach and has established an exhibit documenting his life and works.

The concert hall has been fashioned from the thirteenth-century church of the former Franciscan monastery that stood near the river on the northeast corner of the old city. Originally built in a modest form of Brick Gothic, the church emerged from the rubble of the Second World War largely unscathed. Thereafter the historic building fabric steadily deteriorated until extensive stabilization, restoration and reconstruction could begin in 1969. During renovation of the roof, medieval paintings were discovered on the vaulting and restored, and the two gables visible on the building exterior were renewed according to historic preservation guidelines. Finally, in 1975, the west end of the concert hall received an organ built by Wilhelm Sauer Orgelbau.

An expanded Bach exhibition attached to the concert hall will open in December 2014 as one of the culminating events of the celebration of the three-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt

Marching Bach


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The Portsmouth West Senators

The “Sensational Senators”

Portsmouth West High School’s marching band is in the middle of their summer band camp, fueled by last year’s trip to [Ohio] State and the eagerness of learning a whole new show. Mike Pierce, band director, is excited about this show and says that his team is what makes their unique shows what they are. “We have connections in Drum Corps, and the person who writes my drill judges nationally and internationally,” Pierce said.

One of Pierce’s teammates recently saw a show themed around cubes, and they brainstormed ways of using cubes and boxes on the field, while making it their own. Then, the idea of “Box Music” started to form, in which the band would create box shapes in the field and perform classical Bach pieces that have been accented with different genres of modern music. “Here at West, we never do anything straightforward; you usually either love us or you hate us,” Pierce said. “In this show, we intertwine a lot of Bach’s classical pieces with elements of today’s music and chordal systems, so it is not the Bach of 1740, but the Bach of the modern twist at West.”

West’s marching band usually incorporates giant props into their marching shows. This year’s show will use giant cubes on the field that will rotate to reveal different colors with each passing movement of their show.

“Last year, we were the second best school in the state for our sized school. This year’s group, while smaller, has a terrific attitude about things,” Pierce said. “They jumped in so hard on the first day that it was just motivating to me”

Josh Hall, senior, is drum major this year. Hall has been playing music since the sixth grade and even made a trip to Carnegie Hall, in New York City, last year to perform in the Honors Performance Series. “I figured if anyone should be drum major, it should be me,” Hall said. “Everyone knows I am the strictest person in the band. I am very passionate about band, and I want to go to school to be a band director. I love marching band. It is what I do. The music, fire and drive it creates inside of you is just amazing”

Hall said that he might eventually be interested in directing high school bands, but he is interested in directing university bands the most. “This show is pretty unique and interesting. I think we ought to do pretty well. We have small numbers, but I think we’re going to go far,” Hall said. “Also, there is a party at Owens.”

Meredith Sadler is directing color guard, as she has for years. This year, Band Booster President Becky Lovins is also stepping up and helping to assist the direction of the color guard.

Sydney Kouns, senior, has been in color guard since her freshman year of high school, prior to that, playing the clarinet. Kouns said she might look into color guard opportunities in college, but is most interested in pursuing musical theatre. “My eighth grade year, I always went to the football games to watch the color guard,” Kouns explained. “It looked like a lot of fun. I didn’t think I’d make it, but thought I’d at least try out. I started to enjoy it as I went along and I really love it now.”

Kouns has been involved in the unique shows that Pierce has produced for the past four years, but she said she was surprised by this year’s theme and music. “I was a bit surprised when I was told this year’s show was Bach, but now that I’ve heard the music, I love it,” Kouns said. “Our choreography is really great and I am excited to see where we go. I think that, because our trip to State last year, we’re a lot more dedicated and ready to go.”

Joseph PrattPortsmouth Daily Times

Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut


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The autograph score of BWV 199.

The autograph score of BWV 199.

Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (BWV 199) is a solo soprano cantata in eight movements that Bach first performed three hundred years ago at the Palace Church in Weimar on 12 August 1714. Originally scored for oboe, two violins, viola, and basso continuo, a later Leipzig version replaces the obbligato viola with a violoncello piccolo.

The text for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity by Georg Christian Lehms, describing a sinner in search of redemption, had also been set to music in 1712 by Christoph Graupner in Darmstadt. The sixth movement of the work is based on the chorale Ich, dein betrübtes Kind by Caspar von Stieler.

From the start, Bach employs recitatives to propel the emotional imagery of the text and, in conclusion, celebrates the sinner’s acceptance with a joyful gigue

Bach in Dubrovnik


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Atrium of the Rector's Palace, Dubrovnik

Atrium of the Rector’s Palace, Dubrovnik

Flutist Dieter Flury enjoys a high reputation with music critics due to his subtle sound, perfect technique and musical intelligence. Often referred to as the “Paganini of the flute,” thanks to his “phenomenal finger and breathing techniques,” he has served as solo flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra since 1981 and its general director since 2005.

Flury has achieved a career of a versatile instrumental soloist, chamber musician, music pedagogue and orchestra conductor, and numerous contemporary composers have composed works for him. Tamás Varga, first cellist of the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera, and Stefan Gottfried of the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, who has achieved a successful international music career as harpsichordist and pianist, performed alongside Flury at the Rector’s Palace on 6 August 2014 as part of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

The repertoire for the evening included the Sonatas for Flute and Basso Continuo (BWV 1034-35) by Johann Sebastian Bach, who contributed to the rapidly expanding body of works for the flauto traverso in the first half of the eighteenth century, Piece for Flute Solo by contemporary Austrian composer Herbert Willi, and the Sonata for Cello and Continuum for Solo Harpsichord by Hungarian composer György Ligeti.

Dubrovnik Summer Festival

New Instruments for NuRoque Music


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Keith McMillen

Keith McMillen

Switched-On Bach outsold every classical album that had come before it. In 1968, composer Wendy Carlos performed Bach pieces on Dr. Robert Moog‘s early analog synthesizer systems and convinced a skeptical Columbia Records to release the recorded result. Switched-On Bach shattered expectations. It reached number one on the pop charts the following year, and spawned a glut of imitations. Most importantly, though, Switched-On Bach exposed a mass audience to an entirely new palette of electronic sounds. Among those radicalized by the recordings was Keith McMillen. “I lusted after control of those sounds,” he said. “Being a guitar player at the time, they just weren’t available.” McMillen’s guitar wouldn’t sound like a Moog, but synthesizers lacked the gestural sensitivity of stringed and acoustic instruments. In essence, the instrument builder’s three-decade career has sought to give electronic sounds the expressive physical interface that he cherished in a guitar – and usher in a new musical movement in the process.

At the West Berkeley headquarters of Keith McMillen Instruments, a company founded by its namesake in 2005, about fifteen employees labor to solve the problem posed by Switched-On Bach. Programmers rattle computer keyboards in one nook, while soldering irons flicker in two cluttered engineering rooms. Upstairs, there’s a tidy space where Matt Hettich, the company’s product specialist, demonstrates gear. Like most of the company’s employees, Hettich began working at KMI after graduating from the music program at Mills College in Oakland, where he wrote about electronic music performance for his master’s thesis. In the demo room, he showed off two of the company’s recent devices, QuNeo and QuNexus. They were connected to a computer, modular effects processors, and synthesizers produced by the local companies Dave Smith and Oberheim.

In practice, most musicians use these devices to control MIDI – the digital information produced by computers that constitutes sounds. The QuNeo, which raised eleven times its crowdfunding goal for initial manufacturing in 2012, is the size of an iPad, with raised pads in a variety of shapes. The QuNexus is distinguished from the QuNeo by its shape, which is similar to a keyboard, and its ability to control analog as well as digital sound. Through the company’s software, users assign every pad a specific sound. For the QuNeo, users can assign different sounds to the four corners of every pad.

Beneath the device’s polyurethane exterior rests Smart Fabric, a malleable textile with integrated digital parts. KMI was the first company to use Smart Fabric for instrument design, and McMillen worked personally with a local manufacturer to refine the material. Used in almost all KMI devices, Smart Fabric provides the sensitivity that McMillen sought in electronic interfaces since first hearing Switched-On Bach. Smart Fabric makes KMI devices sensitive to the velocity at which a user strikes each pad, the location within each pad that a user strikes, and the pressure that a user continues to apply after striking. In addition to assigning sounds through KMI software, users can manipulate the parameters of how such physical gestures affect the sounds. Smart Fabric takes live electronic music from an activity akin to typing on a laptop all the way to a physically expressive performance. For instance, the pad’s pressure sensitivity can be programmed to shift the pitch of a given note to mimic a guitarist who stretches a string – and much more.

Hettich explained the devices with exacting technical precision, like an engineer speaking to an electronic musician. His delivery was a reflection of KMI’s core consumer group: innovative musicians seeking to push their instruments’ sonic and expressive limits. Like McMillen himself, many users arrive at KMI gear hoping to defy electronic music’s limited response to physical gestures. The guitar iconoclast Adrian Belew uses a QuNeo to manipulate an array of effects kept in what he calls the Magic Closet. Other users include the experimentalist Dan Deacon, members of the Anticon hip-hop collective, and producers working with acts such as Skrillex and The Weeknd. The crew behind hip-hop artist Childish Gambino‘s live show even uses KMI devices to control lighting and visuals. The theme that echoes throughout artist testimonials about KMI devices is relieved frustration. What seemed impossible, their praise goes, actually isn’t.

McMillen built his first piece of gear – a guitar amplifier – at the age of ten. “I couldn’t afford one,” he said. “I was happy to make something that didn’t electrocute me and made the guitar louder.” Throughout high school, he played in bands and pondered the possibilities of creating an interface for instruments and computers. At the University of Chicago, he took composition courses and earned an engineering degree in acoustics. Attracted to the musical and technological innovation of Bay Area synthesizer luminary Donald Buchla and pioneering institutions like the San Francisco Tape Music Center, McMillen moved to town in 1979.

That year, he founded Zeta Music. The company rose to prominence for producing electric violins and modules to synthesize string sounds. Laurie Anderson, the composer behind 1982’s surprise pop hit O Superman, commissioned an electric violin. In 1992, Zeta made an electric viola at the request of the Kronos Quartet. In 1998, Zeta’s electric violin graced the cover of Playboy magazine’s Sex and Music issue. Zeta enabled string players to amplify their sound and retain the instrument’s timbre. It also reversed the process by synthesizing the sound of string instruments electronically. Though the company practically invented and dominated a new instrument market, it didn’t quite fulfill McMillen’s lifelong goals quite like his work under the KMI banner.

In 2004, McMillen established the nonprofit organization BEAM with the stated goal of fostering a new musical movement called NuRoque. The name referred to the seventeenth-century emergence of Baroque music, which McMillen considered an important revolutionary period because new technology expanded composers’ creative possibilities. McMillen thought that the help of computers in composition – and collaboration – was underexplored. The line of thought created a personifying habit, where components are said to “talk” to one another and “understand” the physical expression of human operators.

“If you’re focused on building tools, it’s very different from using them,” McMillen said. Under the BEAM banner, McMillen founded TrioMetrik to perform NuRoque. A typical TrioMetrik performance featured McMillen on guitar, an electric violinist, and an electric stand-up bassist, all flanked by monitors. Computers interpreted the string-playing in real time, then provided visual feedback, which the performers used in turn to influence the parameters of their improvisation. The goal was to spontaneously collaborate in tandem with computer systems.

TrioMetrik toured rigorously for two years before McMillen encountered more problems to engineer his way out of. The equipment was too large and too costly; these obstacles pivoted him back to starting his current instrument company. Plus, his long-standing dream of being able to control electronic sounds by gesture remained incomplete. NuRoque had to wait.

Keith McMillen Instruments shipped its first product in 2008. Most recently, the company unveiled the StrongArm, a piece of guitar hardware that allows notes to sustain indefinitely. McMillen said that the tool took thirty-five years to make. McMillen’s products solve the problem posed to a young guitarist enraptured by Switched-On Bach, and strive to defy the limitations he’s encountered since. Still, McMillen predicts that when his inventions allow enough expression, sound, and practicality, he’ll stop building. “I basically told myself that once I was done with all of these instruments,” he said. “I’d return to making music.”

Sam LefebvreEast Bay Express

Unaccompanied Sonata to Become a Feature Film


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SonatacropYaron Zilberman (A Late Quartet) has signed on to write and direct an adaptation of Orson Scott Card‘s sci-fi short story Unaccompanied Sonata. Nominated for the Nebula Best Short Story in 1979 and Hugo Best Short Story in 1980, Unaccompanied Sonata‘s title will be shortened to Sonata for the feature film.

The story centers on a musical prodigy who is raised alone in an isolated location away from music of any kind in order to protect his compositional output from external influences. He eventually discovers Bach at age thirty, but then, when caught playing the older composer’s music by a “Watcher,” he is forbidden from ever making music again. The remainder of the story examines his attempts to repress his desire for musical expression.

Card was reluctant to option Unaccompanied Sonata, but according to Deadline, A Late Quartet convinced him that Zilberman was the perfect director for the material: “I hope I get to see the Zilberman version of Unaccompanied Sonata. It is my best story, in the hands of the only director I know of who could possibly make it live as a visual and musical experience.”

Zilberman is excited by the opportunity: “I have always loved this thrilling, poetic and thought-provoking sci-fi story. I’m eager to bring to life the fascinating maverick protagonist, as well as explore the unique sci-fi concepts central to the story.”


The Rostropovich Suites Compared


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RostropovichcropWhile Mstislav Rostropovich did of course record the Suites for Unaccompanied Violoncello (BWV 1007-12) near the end of his career, for EMI in 1995 (issued on both CD and DVD), the release of another cycle from forty years before, from the dawn of his career in 1955, is a major event that demands attention.

This recording was made at the annual Prague Spring Festival, when the cellist was but twenty-eight years old. (It is also a notable occasion in that Rostropovich there met his wife, the famed soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, and proposed to her after a whirlwind ten-day courtship!) The monaural sound is quite clear, if a bit hard-edged and closely miked; the audience is very quiet, though now and then an occasional soft cough is barely audible in the background. While quite acceptable on its own terms, the audio quality of course does not compete with the velvety sound of EMI’s digital set. A similar disadvantageous comparison can be made about the quality of the cellos used; Rostropovich had not yet acquired his famed “Duport” Stradivarius, and the unidentified instrument used in Prague, while again good enough in and of itself, cannot compare with the ravishing, burnished tone quality of the “Duport.” For an instant revelation of the difference, listen to the opening of the Prelude to the Fifth Suite, where the sheer depth and opulence of the “Duport” in the EMI set is positively dumbfounding. There is also the occasional note in Prague that is not quite dead in tune – clearly due in part to the far less rich overtones of the instrument rather than any shortcoming on the part of Rostropovich. If the sound of the instrument itself is a decisive desideratum here – and for many people it justifiably is – then this Supraphon release will likely not be much more than a curiosity.

However, in addition to instrumental sound there is the issue of differences in interpretation over the intervening span of four decades, and that is where this set comes into its own. The first thing to note is that overall, with the major exceptions of the preludes to the First, Third, and Fourth suites, the Gigue in the First Suite, and the Sarabande in the Fifth Suite, the earlier performances are noticeably swifter. (The total timing of the EMI set is 137:54, compared to 123:52 here). That said, comparisons of some individual movements can be misleading, as in the 1955 performances Rostropovich omits repeats in some movements – e.g., the allemandes in the Third and Sixth suites, the bourées in the Fourth Suite, the Courante in the Sixth Suite – though even in some of those instances the 1955 versions would still be swifter if the repeats were observed. (The cuts in Prague doubtless stem from Rostropovich’s early training; in the booklet notes to the EMI set, the cellist recounts that his teacher, Semyon Kozolupov, strictly forbade pupils to play repeats of the second half of movements written in binary form, allowing repeats only in the first half.) If observance of all the repeats is a major criterion for evaluating a set of the suites, then again this set will not be competitive with the EMI studio recording.

What, then, does this Supraphon set have that commends it as a supplement or alternative to the EMI studio version? In a word (actually two words), that elusive and almost intangible quality I would call “narrative intensity.” Despite my unreserved adoration of Rostropovich as the greatest cellist in recorded history (and is there any lover of cello music who does not so venerate him?), I had always found the EMI set of these suites somehow lacking, and this new release has finally made clear why. As tonally gorgeous and technically immaculate as those sets are, and despite the programmatic titles and descriptions that Rostropovich gives to each suite in that set, it is live in Prague and not in the studio that the cellist finds and articulates fully sustained interpretive profiles. Listen for example to the Sarabande in the Second Suite, dubbed “Sorrow and intensity” by Rostropovich in the 1995 EMI set. While that studio recording is very beautiful, it lacks meditative profundity; whereas in Prague there is a rapt sense of total inward intensity – what the Germans call Innigkeit – that transforms the movement into one bearing comparison with the symphonic Adagios of Bruckner. Likewise, while still too slow for my taste, the gavottes and Gigue in the Sixth Suite in Prague have some forward momentum, unlike the suffocatingly leaden versions in the EMI set.

Another notable difference is that in Prague Rostropovich is metrically much more exact, whereas on the EMI set he is rather free (or “rhapsodic,” to borrow his description of Pablo Casals). This is particularly true in the in the concluding dance movements (the menuets, bourées, gavottes, and gigues), with the last two movements of the Second Suite again offering particularly striking instances. While I suppose that some might characterize the earlier recordings as comparatively stiff, I do not find them so, and indeed prefer the more strict approach as better articulating the structure of the music. On the other hand, I much prefer the brisker tempos taken in the EMI set to the preludes of the First, Third, and Fourth Suites, the Allemande in the Third Suite, and the Courante in the Sixth Suite, as imparting a necessary greater degree of energy to those movements.

While my overall interpretive preference is therefore with the Prague versions, I cannot simply recommend that set in preference to the EMI one for those desiring a recording of Rostropovich in this repertoire. The two sets are strikingly different, and each has its considerable merits in manifesting the cellist’s extraordinary musical genius. (Indeed, the Prague set caused me to appreciate virtues of the EMI set that had not registered with me before.) For fans of Rostropovich, it goes without saying that this is a mandatory acquisition; but to lovers of cello music in general and the Bach suites in particular, I would say much the same thing, despite its occasional limitations.

Urgently recommended.

James A. AltenaFanfare Magazine


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