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8.550678 - BACH, J.S.: Cello Suites Nos. 4-6, BWV 1010-1012

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Cello Suites Vol. 2
Suite No.4 in E Flat Major, BWV 1010
Suite No.5 in C Minor, BWV 1011
Suite No.6 in D Major, BWV 1012

Johann Sebastian Bach was born at Eisenach in 1685 into a family of musicians. The early death of his parents left him in the care of his eldest brother Johann Christoph, organist in Ohrdruf, where he remained for five years, until becoming a pupil at the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg in 1700. Three years later he was appointed court musician in Weimar, but a few months later moved to Arnstadt as organist at the Neuekirche. In 1707 he moved to a similar position at the Blasiuskirche in Mühlhausen, where he married his cousin Maria Barbara. The following year brought appointment to Weimar as organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst, one of the two rulers of the Duchy. In 1714 he was promoted to the position of Konzertmeister, consolidating still further his position as an authority on the construction of the organ and his reputation as a performer. In 1717 he left the service of the Duke, who briefly had him imprisoned for his temerity in trying to leave Weimar, and took a more congenial position as Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Here he was able to concentrate on secular music, since the Pietist practices of the court obviated the need for elaborate church music. It was only the marriage of the Prince to a woman without musical interests that induced Bach to seek employment elsewhere. In 1723 he signed a contract with the Leipzig authorities as Thomaskantor, with teaching responsibilities at the Thomasschule, some of which could be delegated, and the charge of music in the principal city churches. By 1729 he had also taken the direction of the university collegium musicum, a society established earlier in the century by Telemann, godfather of Bach's fifth child, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and the Leipzig city council's first choice as Thomaskantor. Bach remained in Leipzig as Thomaskantor until his death in 1750. His earlier years involved him in the composition of a quantity of church music, while the demands of the collegium musicum were met by the re-arrangement of earlier instrumental concertos for one or more harpsichords. He continued to write extensively for the keyboard and to collect and edit his earlier compositions, particularly in the four volumes of his Clavierübung.

Bach wrote his six Suites for unaccompanied cello at Cöthen, about the year 1720. It is thought that the first four of the Suites, at least, were written either for Christian Ferdinand Abel, bass viol player at Cöthen or for Christian Bernhard Linike, more probably the latter. Abel, appointed to Cöthen in 1715, is not known to have been a cellist, while Linike was distinguished rather as a player of the cello and in this capacity had been appointed to the musical establishment of the Margrave Christian Ludwig in Cöthen in 1716. Both musicians were friends and colleagues of Bach. The original autograph of the suites is lost and the earliest copy is that in the hand of Bach's second wife, Anna Magdalena, made probably in 1727 or 1728 for the Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel chamber musician Georg Heinrich Ludwig Schwanberg, who had visited Leipzig at the time and taken lessons in thoroughbass from Bach, for whose daughter Johanne he stood as godfather.

The fourth of Bach's cello suites, the Suite in E flat major, BWV 1010, opens, like the others, with a demanding Prelude. An Allemande follows, paired with a Courante, leading to a contrasting slow Sarabande. A busier first Bourrée is followed by a second Bourrée of simpler texture and in the same key. The last movement is a lively Gigue.

The fifth and sixth of Bach's cello suites differ in various ways from the first four. The fifth, the Suite in C minor, BWV 1011, was originally written in scordatura, with the top string of the cello tuned to G instead of A. The opening Prelude has a slower embellished introduction before an extended faster fugal section in triple metre. An ornamented Allemande is duly followed by its companion Courante and a slow Sarabande that strangely avoids the chordal pattern of its predecessors. A first Gavotte is repeated after the unusual compound rhythm of the second Gavotte and the suite ends with a Gigue in dotted rhythm.

The sixth of the suites, the Suite in D major, BWV 1012, is written for a five-string instrument, with an additional top string tuned to E. It has been suggested that Bach wrote this more difficult suite for the viola pomposa, although other evidence dates this new instrument to the year 1725. The violoncello piccolo is used elsewhere by Bach and this smaller cello, designed for more elaborate solo work, seems likely to have been his choice for the sixth suite. The Prelude opens with the characteristic sound of bariolage, as the player repeats the note D first on one string than on another. The Allemande has elaborate figuration and the companion Courante again exploits the wider possible range of the five-string instrument. A Sarabande is followed by a pair of Gavottes, played in alternation, and the suite ends with the customary and here demanding Gigue.

Csaba Onczay
The Hungarian cellist Gsaba Onczay, awarded the Liszt Prize and winner of the 1973 Pablo Casals Competition in Budapest, followed by first prize in the Rio de Janeiro Villa Lobos International Competition in 1976, was born in Budapest in 1946. A professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest, he was trained as a pupil of Antal Friss at the Budapest Academy, where he won the Grand Prize on his graduation in 1970. He went on to distinguish himself in Andre Navarra's master-class at Siena and continued his studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. Csaba Onczay has enjoyed a busy career at home and abroad, throughout Europe and in the United States of America. He has recorded for the Austrian and the French radio, as well as for Hilversum, RIAS and RAI, while his performances of the cello concertos of Lalo, Schumann and Lendvay have been released on the Hungaroton label. Gsaba Onczay plays a cello by Matteo Gofriller bought for him by the Hungarian Government.

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