October 28, 2015
Certain masterworks are very tempting for artists to return to – Glenn Gould famously bookended his recording career with very different interpretations of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Cellist Matt Haimovitz has an entirely new take on the quintessential solo work for his instrument with The Cello Suites According to Anna Magdalena, very different from the recording he made of the Bach suites in 2000.
There’s more information about the recording at Matt Haimovitz’s Oxingale Records site.
Beyond the fact that this time around he’s got gut strings on his cello, a baroque bow (and uses a ‘cello piccolo’ with five strings for the sixth suite), he’s also made his phrasing decisions based on the manuscript that was copied by J.S. Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena Bach, which differs considerably from the other manuscript edition written by Johann Peter Kellner. “It seems very esoteric, and very tedious work to figure out exactly what Bach meant with all these articulations, but once you start looking at those details, it affects the contour, the rhetoric of the line, it affects the grammar of the line,” Haimovitz says, and he feels her notation is more faithful to the spirit of Bach.
It seems clear, he says, that Bach intended the final suite to be played on the cello piccolo: “The five string just makes it so much easier to actually do what Bach intended. So a lot of the chords that are actually unplayable on a four string cello suddenly in the Sarabande, suddenly it’s much easier… It’s also just a haunting instrument… It’s a more intimate instrument, it resonates beautifully but it’s not as thick or rich as a modern four string. There was some confusion at the start, cause after playing the sixth suite for thirty years in a certain way, you have to make all kinds of changes with keeping track of strings, and left hand fingering and that kind of thing, but it was worth the effort, and in the end I don’t ever want to go back to the four string cello for that sixth suite.”
by Jeffrey Freymann
Read here at Bay Area’s KDFC