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Bach Suites, Meyer vs Rabbath!

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Samie, May 4, 2005.

  1. one more opinion here, FWIW:

    Hope this isn't considered heresy here at TBDB, its just my personal taste. But I confess I really much prefer listening to the Suites in either of the two recorded cello versions that I own (Ma and Casals), more than in any of the three bass versions I have (Karr, Meyers, and Mark Bernat.)

    (Bernat, BTW, has published a lovely hand-notated edition of the suites edited and occasionally transposed to be more bass-friendly. Worth owning if you're into the studying Cello Suites on Bass. I think I got mine from Lemur. On his recording, Bernat gets through them all credibly, but is not quite in the same league as Meyer and Karr.)

    Don't get me wrong, I love listening to all sorts of classical solo bass music, whether orginally composed for bass or successfully transcribed. (E.g., check out Marrilier's CDs for loads of well done bass repetoire adapted from other instruments.) At the same time, I can also greatly appreciate and admire the technical and interpretive accomplishment in one or another bassist's take on the Suites. But for me, for pure listening gestalt and pleasure, these suites just do a lot more for me on cello.

    In particular, Casals's recording is truly unique, and is an awe-inspiring piece of musicianship. Sadly, it is an ancient recording, monural and not exactly hi-fi, so I listen to it less than I do the Ma version, which is both beautifully recorded and strikingly beautifully played. For the first four years or so of my son's life Yoyo Ma's Cello Suites recording provided sleepy-time music nearly every single night, so the kid's poor little brain is by now completely wired with Bach musical logic and beauty.

    But Casals spent most of his life working on the Suites and he is widely credited with bringing them from relative obscurity to become a standard plank in any accompllish cellist's repetoire, and thence on to certain daring bassists. His interpretation is absolutely stunning to listen to. I recall reading somewhere that Casals was once asked why he continued to practice the Suites daily when he was well into his eighties. His reply was that he was sure he continued to improve by this practice. Undoubtedly there's a lot to learn from these pieces.

    the following may be of interest: http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/jsbach.html
  2. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I feel the same way. The suites were written, after all, for cello (except for the one that was written for lute--number five or six, can't recall at the moment), and every time we bassists transcribe something we have our own technical hurdles to jump that can get in the way of the music. Which makes the achievement of Meyer et. al. all the more remarkable--except that our ears don't give points for effort when evaluating music.

    Having said that, I once heard Ed Barker perform the first suite in a recital, and his rendition was equal to the best I have heard from the great cellists. He's never recorded the suites as far as I know. Although he has a stellar reputation in the bass world, we don't talk about him as much as we talk about Meyer and Karr; we should, though! When I hear him play, I'm not aware of the fact that he's playing bass, just that he's playing music.
  3. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    Johono, I completely agree! I'm surprised that we don't hear about Ed Barker. He is an old teacher of mine and is one of the best bass players that I have ever seen in my life. His recording is really good, although I think that he has even, since the release, become better. His work is really astounding and I am truly surprised that we don't talk about him more.
  4. dex68

    dex68 Guest

    May 5, 2005
    I also have been listening to the Ma versions for years, and so, too, have all three of my children. I love his version, and I think he's one of the greatest musicians and human beings on the planet. But sometimes a little change is in order. Personally, I'd rather not compare bass to cello. To me there are qualities in Meyer's version(not having yet heard other bass versions) that a cello could never match, not being a bass. Really, it's a totally different way to listen to the music. I don't really think Bach's music was so instrument specific. I mean, pretty much any good musician can make the suites sound good on whatever instrument. In fact, sometimes a different instrument can bring new aspects of the music to your ears. Of course, if you get used to hearing them a certain way, that becomes your reference point - it can be hard to really take a fresh listen to something. Unfortunately for me, I'm that way with Glenn Gould. My parents listened to him when I was little, so now I can't listen to any other versions of Bach keyboard music without cringing. Most folks can't stand him, so it seems.
  5. hi guys... I thought i'd throw in an idea or two... Bach is some of the most personal music out there. You can have 10 of the best musicians in the world get together and discuss and play Bach and they would feel and sound completely different with different styles, different articulation, different ideas about rhythm or rubato... I have always felt that bach should be played based on how and in the style the individual wants to play it. Well personally I feel that I don't care for any of the bass recordings of the cello suites. They all seem to be affected in some way like they are out to prove something that doesn't really matter. I don't really like any of the cello recordings as well. Somehow something is lost in the act of trying to record the suites. I much prefer to hear them live and for me there is no comparison. I watched an Anner Bylsma masterclass with David Soyer, Marcy Rosen, and Peter Wiley in the audience and they all got into a huge argument over whether bach should be metronomic or free. Bylsma plays very free while soyer and the rest feel that it should be dancelike and rhythmic. Soyer said afterward that he thought Bylsma was a great musician and beautiful player and loved the way he played, but he personally would never play bach like that. 3 things stood out to me inthe class that I felt were important. 1st is to look at the earliest versions on the printed manuscript and to pay special attention to the slurs. 2nd is to always bring out the appoggiaturas, and 3rd is to play the suites completely convincingly in whichever way they are played. Anyway thats all from me, sorry for the long post heh
  6. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    My favorite recording of the suites is by Lynne Harrell. it is my opinion that these suites being dances, so not leave room for rubato. Each of these movements have very specific requirements which differentiate them from one another.

    Really there is not much room for derivation. Casals interpretations are completely Romantic in regards to dynamics and tempi. While I thank Pablo for bringing them to light I do not regard his interpretations highly.

    Terraced dynamics anyone ? Casals does the Mannheim skyrocket in slow mo on these things...blah.

    The performance practice of the Baroque Era is well codified from original sources. If as someone mentioned, it is hard to play bach then how does one explain figured bass ?

    To me being a cellist the hardest thing to keep in mind about these suites is the linear harmony and making sure that the counterpoint within these lines is well defined.

    As Chris mentioned i think there is no better interpreter of JSB than Glenn Gould. Maybe he didn't say that but again just my opinion.

    On bass i tune in fifths and play like i am playing the cello. I have never heard any of the bass recordings.
  7. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Kurt, that sounds like a wonderful masterclass, wish I could have seen it.

    Speaking of bowings, has anyone else seen Bylsma's book Bach: The Fencing Master, in which he discusses his views on the bowings he uses and how he interprets the Anna Magdelena manuscript?

    I personally see a paradox with the man's ideas because he is such a free player but takes such a nit-picking approach to figuring out how the bowings work, based on looking at the manuscript with a magnifying glass.

    A lot of the bowings he comes up with seem pretty distorted.

    Jaap Ter-Linden suggested to my wife that she get a copy of the bach manuscript of the violin sonatas and partitas because he feels it would help to see how his handwriting looked on similar music.
  8. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    I am inspired greatly by the cello suites. I've been working on the courante, bouree, and gigue (gotta love the name) from the third suite. I just wanted to say I agree with Ray about the rhythm, the dance quality. I have Yo Yo Ma's and Schiff's recordings, neither make it for me. I hear Bach's dance music with a strong pulse and steady beat, Ma's rubato especially, just obliterates the groove for me. Segovia seemed to have the best rhythmic take.I believe Bach's note choices are so good they sound best played with a dance feel.
  9. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Would the music sound so good if the movement were called a "jig"?

    I've gotta start getting more sleep...

  10. I attended a masterclass of his at Rhode Island College about 5 years ago, he performed Bottesini's Concerto in B minor, with piano, and get to watch him play about 8-10 times a year at Symphony Hall. Have his CD Three Sonatas for Double Bass..He's an incredible musician, and I don't know how long ago you syudied with him, but his sound is singing, warm, and masterful. I looking to get his newest CD out now.

  11. Friends, oh how I enjoy the Bernat recording which is sometimes second only to my Azharkin Chaccone recording in enjoyment.
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    What a great insight that was. So I guess Kurt didn't get the job. I know the Bass he has. I tried that Bajoni at a NY Shop just before he bought it. That is one sweet Bass. I hear Kurt is a great player so I am sure he will land a major gig before long.
  13. ohmigosh, you just have to hear the recording by gerd reinke
    you'll be in tears

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