Cellist and, since January, United Nations Peace Ambassador Yo-Yo Ma will be at the Kennedy Center tonight, playing three of the unaccompanied cello suites of J. S. Bach (no. 3, no. 5, and no. 6), pieces with which he is widely identified in the United States. I am not sure which cello Ma will play, his 1733 Montagnana ("Petunia") or the 1712 Davidov Stradivarius (given to him by Jacqueline du Pré): the latter is reportedly what he has used in the past for Baroque music. (The last time Ionarts heard an all-Bach cello suite recital like this was from Mischa Maisky at the National Gallery two summers ago. He also chose three suites, two of them the same as Ma is playing, no. 3 and no. 5, with no. 1 instead of no. 6.) Yo-Yo Ma is, of course, one of the big tickets of the month, more or less sold out for weeks now. Good luck trying to get into this concert at this point. Reviews will follow here and at DCist.
An article by Pierre Gervasoni (Bach fait résonner les compositeurs d'aujourd'hui, March 13) for Le Monde describes the Herculean concert undertaken by French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras on March 12 at the Cité de la musique in Paris:
The former soloist of the Ensemble Intercontemporain had the idea to introduce each suite with a short, newly composed work, commissioned as a sort of "pre-echo." According to this two-pronged formula, at least from the acoustic point of view, the new piece acquires a double function: introducing a page by Bach with which it was in real harmony. Ivan Fedele's Arc-en-ciel did this duty perfectly. The spectral deployment of the harmonies announced the opening arpeggio of Bach's first suite and the range of cello colors evoked what the instrument would become in the 20th century.He played all six of the suites -- the concert lasted four and a half hours with intermissions -- with the other introductory pieces by Gilbert Amy, György Kurtag, Misato Mochizuki, Jonathan Harvey, and Ichiro Nodaïra. Even after all that, Queyras produced an encore, another new work, by Philippe Schoeller. I found only one other review of this concert (Bach et le bel aujourd’hui, March 12) by Jacques Doucelin for Concertclassic.com.
Even better, the quasi-improvised tone of this new piece extended naturally into the very free and sensual performance of the first suite's prelude. The harvest of the monastic ascetism usually sought in these timeless soliloquies! For the young Frenchman, "solo" does not necessarily mean "monologue, and the Allemande shows this as a conversation animated by two voices. The other dances are just as light and eloquent.
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J. S. Bach, Six Suites for Solo Cello, Matt Haimovitz (released on November 21, 2000)