Sunday, July 14, 2013

Michael Johnson on Bach

In case you missed it, Michael Johnson reviews The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin.

"If you only read one book on Bach the rest of the year, give this one a try. I missed it when it came out four years ago and serendipitously found it in a library search for something else, checked it out, and couldn't put it down ...

"Subtitled, "J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece," The Cello Suites carries off well what's famously difficult to do: write 300-plus pages about music, engagingly, for an intelligent lay audience. "

Bach seems to inspire a lot of interesting writing. One of my all time favorite novels, The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers, features a long discussion of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

I notice that at the end of the Wilson and Karl Hess video, the two are asked to name the greatest man of all time, and RAW says Bach.

Bonus music link: Oz Fritz on a new movie about African music.

1 comment:

CrypticMusic said...

I would unreservedly recommend The Cello Suites as well! I read it a couple of years ago when I started making my own arrangements of the Bach suites for baritone saxophone, and it does present a good case for why these little pieces of music are so well-loved.

Siblin's counterpoint between the scholarship on the suites themselves, and the life of Casals as he championed the works as performance pieces is an effective narrative device. The book trips along almost like a detective story rather than a dusty academic study.

I appreciated learning more about Casals' life, since it is rare to hear about the role that specific performers play in bringing masterpieces to the public, and we often only know about the composer. That said, I generally find Casals' interpretation too "romantic", and my current favourite performer of the suites is Angela East, from the British ensemble Red Priest.