Johann Sebastian Bach

Suite for solo cello No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007

    Description by James Liu

    It is thought that Bach wrote his six suites for unaccompanied cello between 1717 and 1723, while he was in the employ of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen and had two superb solo cellists, Bernard Christian Linigke and Christian Ferdinand Abel, at his disposal. However, the earliest copy of the suites dates from 1726, and no autographs survive. Thus a chronological order is difficult to prove, though one guesses that these suites were composed in numerical order from the way that they gradually evolve and deepen, both technically and musically.

    A Baroque suite is typically a collection of dance movements, usually in binary form with each half repeated. Common elements of the suite were the Allemande (German dance), a moderately slow duple-meter dance; the Courante, a faster dance in triple meter; the Sarabande, a Spanish-derived dance in a slow triple meter with emphasis on the second beat; and a Gigue (Jig), which is rapid, jaunty, and energetic. Bach took these typical dance forms and abstracted them, and then added a free-form, almost improvisatory Prelude which sets the tone for each suite, and a galanterie, an additional dance interposed between Sarabande and Gigue. (In the first two suites, Bach uses a pair of Minuets.) With these dances, Bach experimented and created the first, and arguably still the finest, solo works for a relatively new instrument.

    The first suite, in G major, gives the feel of innocent simplicity, and serves as a marvelous opening to these extraordinary works. The Prelude recalls the C major Prelude which opens Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Each piece sets a remarkable atmosphere with no melodies, only strong rhythmic patterns, cunningly evolving harmonies, and evocative textures. Bach uses short, arpeggiated phrases to build larger-scale crescendos and decrescendos, and these phrases in turn aggregate into still larger structures, evoking an endlessly more complicated fractal pattern. This quality would become a characteristic of Bach's cello writing, along with a distinctive rhythmic quality far removed from the character of the original dances. Bach's suiite may have been inspired by viol writing in France and cello writing in Italy, but there was nothing like it before the first suite, and little like it after, except for the five suites that followed.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prelude
    2. Allemande
    3. Courante
    4. Sarabande
    5. Menuet 1
    6. Menuet 2
    7. Gigue

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 DG Archiv 0002894795814
    2016 DG Archiv
    2016 Eudora EUD 1602
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Carpe Diem CD 16305
    2015 Arcana A 383
    2015 Alpha ALPHA 301
    2015 Vox 7911
    2015 Resonus Classics RSN 10147
    2015 Berlin Classics 0300552BC
    2015 Naïve E 8939
    2015 Delphian DCD 34150
    2015 Laurence Lesser
    2015 PentaTone Classics PRC 5186555
    2015 ArcoDiva UP 0173
    2015 Pavane ADW 75689
    2015 Cameo Classics CC 9050
    2015 Challenge Classics CHR 72682
    2015 Sony Classics 513074
    2014 Amadeus Arte AAP 14001
    2014 Solo Musica 88843092602
    2014 Phaedra PHA 292028
    2014 New Focus / New Focus Recordings FCR 142
    2014 Warner Classics 2564624199
    2014 Fontenay Classics FCI 009
    2014 Eigenart EA 10460CD
    2014 Pipistrelle PIP 1403
    2014 Blue Griffin Recording BGR 317
    2014 Warner Classics 544819
    2014 Warner Classics 0825646394111
    2014 Vivat VVTCD 107
    2014 Es-Dur ES 2036
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