I am so pleased to have released my recordings of the Bach Suites for Solo Viola. Each Suite contains seven movements: a Prelude, followed by six baroque dance movements. The individual identity of each suite is based not only by its separate key signature, but also by the specific melodic motif of its Prelude movement. Suite no. 1 in G major is characterized by an Alberti-type bass arpeggiated melody; Suite no. 2 in d minor expands upon the opening d minor triad; Suite no. 3 in C major is based upon the grand opening statement of an ordinary descending C major scale; Suite no. 4 in Eb major employs a pedal tone combined most often with descending arpeggios; Suite no. 5 in c minor has an unusual Prelude movement because of its attached Fugue, and contains an extensive amount of polyphony both in the vertical chords of the Prelude, as well as in the linear statements of the Fugue; Suite no. 6 in D major (said to be written for the smaller 5-stringed Cello Piccolo) is the longest and most difficult of all suites to play, especially when played in the original key (in fact, it is often performed down a fifth, to G major), yet it begins with simple triplet unison figures. Bach wrote these masterpieces while Cappelmeister in Cöthen, around the year 1720. Also written during this time in Cöthen were the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas and the Brandenburg Concerti.
I have used copies of the Anna Magdelena Bach Urtext, as well as non-Urtext editions, including those written for the transcribed viola (I am a fan of Milton Katim’s bowed International edition, and feel his bowings often help illustrate the musical phrasing) and those written for the cello (including the International edition by Edmund Kurtz) to help formulate my own ideas of bowings and fingerings.
My interpretation for each Suite really grew over the course of many years, but became most refined during my recuperation from a bad snowboarding accident on New Year’s Eve 2010, which shattered my right wrist (it now contains a metal plate and several pins). During the three-month recuperation, I practiced the viola left-hand only and mentally practiced the suites for hours each day. Within a year, I was performing concerts of the Six Suites back-to-back, from memory, for incredibly gracious, curious and supportive audiences. I discovered a better ability to understand and interpret each Suite, by virtue of knowing and performing all of the Suites.
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