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Mayke Rademakers

The Cello Suites

  • Type CD
  • Label Challenge Classics
  • UPC 0608917268225
  • Catalog number CC 72682
  • Release date 03 July 2015
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About the album

The Suites for violoncello solo

An exact chronology of the suites (regarding both the order in which the suites were composed and whether they were composed before or after the solo violin sonatas) cannot be completely established. However, scholars generally believe that – based on a comparative analysis of the styles of the sets of works – the cello suites arose first, effectively dating the suites pre-1720, the year on the title page of Bach’s autograph of the violin sonatas.

The suites were not widely known before the 1900s, and for a long time it was generally thought that the pieces were intended to be studies. However, after discovering Grützmacher’s edition in a thrift shop in Barcelona, Spain, at age 13, Catalan cellist Pablo Casals began studying them. Although he would later perform the works publicly, it was not until 1936, when he was 60 years old, that he agreed to record the pieces, beginning with Suites Nos. 1 and 2, at Abbey Road Studios in London. Casals became the first to record all six suites by 1939. Their popularity soared soon after, and Casals’ original recording is still widely available and respected today.

Attempts to compose piano accompaniments to the suites include a notable effort by Robert Schumann. In 1923, Leopold Godowsky realized Suites Nos. 2, 3 and 5 in full counterpoint for solo piano.

Unlike Bach’s solo violin sonatas, no autographed manuscript survived, thus ruling out the use of an urtext performing edition. However, analysis of secondary sources, including a hand-written copy by Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena, has produced presumably authentic editions, although critically deficient in the placement of slurs and other articulation. As a result, many interpretations of the suites exist with no solo accepted version. German cellist Michael Bach has stated that the manuscript of the suites by Anna Magdalena Bach is accurate. The unexpected positioning of the slurs corresponds closely to the harmonic development, and the details of his analysis confirm this.

In conversation with... Mayke Rademakers
You are presenting the Bach cello suites in quite an exceptional setting, combined with contemporary composers and improvisations. Could you describe your motivations behind all of this?
These days, there exists a tremendous focus upon “historic” performance practices. Besides the positive and most valuable lessons that we have learned regarding instrumentation, articulation and musical editions, one tends to forget that today’s listener hears within a completely different sphere to that of one who lived 300 years ago. An authentic listening experience is, despite what we would all like to believe, simply not possible.
It is for this reason that I have strived to make a connection with today’s world, by pairing the suites with works by contemporary composers, setting them in an unusual and incisive perspective.
This is designed as a modern reflection, with the hope and expectation that we will hear these suites in a different and more genuinely “authentic” manner thereby.

Could you disclose a little more regarding your choice of these particular composers like Gubaidulina, Kurtag and Schnittke?
The pieces I have chosen do link the suites most effectively. Exactly half-way, between the 3rd and the 4th suite, Per Slava, composed on the B.A.C.H. motive, functions like a centerfold of a magazine. Gubaidulina is a strongly spiritually. 

Unlike Bach’s solo violin sonatas, no autographed manuscript survived, thus ruling out the use of an urtext performing edition. However, analysis of secondary sources, including a hand-written copy by Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena, has produced presumably authentic editions, although critically deficient in the placement of slurs and other articulation. As a result, many interpretations of the suites exist with no solo accepted version. German cellist Michael Bach has stated that the manuscript of the suites by Anna Magdalena Bach is accurate. The unexpected positioning of the slurs corresponds closely to the harmonic development, and the details of his analysis confirm this. 

And your improvisations? Why the use of a silent cello?
In contrast with our time, improvising was very common in Bach’s era. Composing, playing one or several instruments, alongside the art of improvisation belonged to the skills of every musician.
I have always been intrigued to search for those notes which are not actually printed. Throughout these improvisations I was inspired by motives from the suites, the B.A.C.H.-motif and the various keynotes of the 6 suites. All are used in a generically subliminal way, but with enough clarity to ensure that
a connection is felt. When improvising, I prefer the use of the silent cello due to it’s remarkable possibilities in sound and expression. It also enables me to play in an effectively polyphonic manner. 
 

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30-11-2015 NRC Handelsblad
06-03-2015 Nederlands Dagblad

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