J.S. Bach—Cello Suite No 1 in G Major | WATCH NOW
Menuets I & II
Joel Becktell, Cello
Joel Becktell has performed, taught, and lectured throughout North America and Europe. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees with honors and received the Rubenstein prize for cello performance. His teachers were Anne Cole, Alan Harris, and Stephen Geber. Joel has been a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Mexico Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras, the Nichols Quartet, the Harrington String Quartet, and the Moveable Feast chamber ensemble. From 1995–2002 he served as Principal Cellist of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, and has also been Principal Cellist with the Santa Fe Pro Musica and is currently Assistant Principal Cellist with The Santa Fe Symphony. He is also a member of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus, Ohio. Joel appears frequently on Baroque and modern cello and violoncello piccolo with ensembles throughout North America, and has been heard as a soloist with orchestras including the Austin Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Fe Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, and Santa Fe Symphony. He is a co-founder, with Amy Greer, of Movable Sol, a series of intimate chamber music concerts performed around New Mexico. He is also the founder of BWV, an early music concert series.
Joel has recorded for the Marquis Classics, Blue Griffin, Revel, and Parma CD labels. His 2-CD set of Bach Cello Suites, Volume 1, comprising recordings of the first three Bach Suites each performed on modern and baroque cellos, was released in 2014.
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.
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