Watch The Symphony's Assistant Principal Cellist, Joel Becktell, performing J.S. Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007, filmed at Santa Fe's iconic Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi during the 2020 Fall Virtual Concert Series.
Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007
J.S. Bach (1685-1759)
Menuets I & II
Johann Sebastian Bach is not known as an innovator, regardless of how magnificent his music may be. Concertos, dance suites, organ and keyboard solos, cantatas, trio sonatas and solo instrumental sonatas with harpsichord accompaniment were all common genres throughout Europe. Even sonatas and suites for high-pitched unaccompanied solo instruments were prevalent--but not works for cello. In fact, we know of only one composer other than Bach, Domenico Gabrielli (1659-1690), who wrote 7 ricercari (or fugues) for unaccompanied cello--which suggests that Bach, in his subtle way, was indeed an innovator.
The actual date of compositions of the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello is not known, but they are thought to have postdated the Six Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas, which may have spurred Bach to try his hand at a companion set for a bass instrument.
All of the unaccompanied suites are expansions of the conventional five-movement Baroque dance suite (Prelude and consisting of a stately Allemande, followed by a flowing, rapid Courante, a slow Sarabande and ending with a Gigue, a fast dance in triple time). Composers routinely added additional dances, many originating in the French ballet. Originating in the 16th century, by Bach's time these dances had lost their association with the ballroom, with only the opening rhythmic patterns surviving. In Suite No. 1, the optional movements are two Minuets.
In the Cello Suites, as in the Violin Suites, arpeggios, melodic figurations and double stops create the effect of complete harmonies and counterpoint, as well as the ability of the listeners to supply in their heads a fuller harmonic context.
Bach’s six Cello Suites were popular during his lifetime but, like much of his music, were largely forgotten or ignored after his death. It fell to famous cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973) to bring them to the attention of the public, after he had discovered an old copy of the Suites in a thrift shop in Barcelona.
—Program Note by Wordpros