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Cello Suite No.6 in D major BWV 1012

Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685 - d. 1750)

Alban Gerhardt (photo credit: Sim Canetty Clarke)

Alban Gerhardt (photo credit: Sim Canetty Clarke)

Composer
Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685 - d. 1750)
Composition Year
1720
Work Movements
1. Prelude
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Sarabande
5. Gavottes I & II
6. Gigue
Artists
Alban Gerhardt [cello]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

This is the last of Bach's six cello suites, a sublime celebration in D major that seems to translate the cello into another universe. In fact it was written for the violoncello piccolo, an experimental five-string cello whose fifth string was tuned to the E, a fifth above our A string. In the absence of this instrument the passages written for this top string demand extensive use of high thumb positions.

The long, powerful Prelude is in the form of a moto perpetuo based on a unison alternating between two strings and on an insistent triplet rhythm.  The unison is at first with the open D string, then moves up to the A string and on up to the E. The music dances with joy from the first note; there are no doubts in this universe as the music climbs to dizzy heights with extraordinary feats of virtuosity.

The Allemande is a lavishly embellished movement in which the four-beat bars are almost concealed by its expressive ornamentation - hardly an allemande at all, suggests Pieter Wispelwey, an aria and prayer of dumbfounding beauty. The Courante returns to a world of heady virtuosity, where the basic metre of the dance is made even more hectic by the whirling sixteenths.

The Sarabande has a majestic tread high in the cello’s register, as have all the movements, overwhelming us with the double and triple stopping that takes us through its elaborate harmonic progressions. Wispelwey describes the second half as a wheel of eternity, where it seems the quarter note movement can never be stopped.

The Gavotte returns to the spirit of the Courante with its strong dance flavour.  Big chords combine with a strong melody to generate an enthusiastic drive and rhythmic energy.  The second Gavotte is quieter, and introduces the sound of the old French bagpipe, the Musette. The final Gigue goes over the top completely and frenzy is driven to the limit in the orgiastically repeated sixteenth-note pairs …here the domain of the cello suite is left behind forever.

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Cello Suite No.6 in D major BWV 1012

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685 - d. 1750)
Performance date: Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Johann Sebastian Bach (b. 1685 - d. 1750)
Work Title Cello Suite No.6 in D major BWV 1012
Composition Year 1720
Work Movements 1. Prelude
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Sarabande
5. Gavottes I & II
6. Gigue
Artist(s) Alban Gerhardt [cello]
Performance Date Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:27:02
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Solo
Instrumentation vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

This is the last of Bach's six cello suites, a sublime celebration in D major that seems to translate the cello into another universe. In fact it was written for the violoncello piccolo, an experimental five-string cello whose fifth string was tuned to the E, a fifth above our A string. In the absence of this instrument the passages written for this top string demand extensive use of high thumb positions.

The long, powerful Prelude is in the form of a moto perpetuo based on a unison alternating between two strings and on an insistent triplet rhythm.  The unison is at first with the open D string, then moves up to the A string and on up to the E. The music dances with joy from the first note; there are no doubts in this universe as the music climbs to dizzy heights with extraordinary feats of virtuosity.

The Allemande is a lavishly embellished movement in which the four-beat bars are almost concealed by its expressive ornamentation - hardly an allemande at all, suggests Pieter Wispelwey, an aria and prayer of dumbfounding beauty. The Courante returns to a world of heady virtuosity, where the basic metre of the dance is made even more hectic by the whirling sixteenths.

The Sarabande has a majestic tread high in the cello’s register, as have all the movements, overwhelming us with the double and triple stopping that takes us through its elaborate harmonic progressions. Wispelwey describes the second half as a wheel of eternity, where it seems the quarter note movement can never be stopped.

The Gavotte returns to the spirit of the Courante with its strong dance flavour.  Big chords combine with a strong melody to generate an enthusiastic drive and rhythmic energy.  The second Gavotte is quieter, and introduces the sound of the old French bagpipe, the Musette. The final Gigue goes over the top completely and frenzy is driven to the limit in the orgiastically repeated sixteenth-note pairs …here the domain of the cello suite is left behind forever.