When you think of improvisation in music, you probably think of saxophone lines sailing through the smoke of a jazz club, not cello riffs frilling up a piece by Bach.
But Bach was a man of his times, a happenin’ kind of guy who set and also followed the musical trends of his day, which encouraged performers to ornament his and other composers’ works.
Over time and for a variety of reasons, it became unfashionable to perform Bach’s cello suites with ornamentation.
However, in her new recording, Going Off Script: The Ornamented Suites for Cello by J.S. Bach, cellist Juliana Soltis, a specialist in historically informed baroque performance practice, adds her own ornamentation to these venerable suites – just like a cellist in Bach’s day might have done.
Soltis will perform ornamented renditions of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. in the Huntington Recital Hall of Capital University’s Conservatory of Music.
Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello have come to be regarded as the Mt. Everest of the cello.
Mastering the six suites for public performance is a remarkable accomplishment. Recording the suites – as many of the world’s top cellists have done – means you have something to say and enough moxie to enter the conversation that the world’s finest cellists have been having for generations about these works.
Soltis says her contribution to the conversation about Bach’s cello suites is to travel back in time. Back before Bach’s music fell out of style near the end of his life and into oblivion after his death. Back before Mendelssohn and other composers in the 1800s revived Bach’s then moribund music and brought it back to prominence in the world’s concert halls.
And untimately back before Bach’s music, as Soltis puts it, was placed on a pedestal and performers sought to honor it with performances informed by world views much different from those prevalent in Bach’s day – and perform Bach’s cello suites as though Bach himself were in the room, just diggin’ it.
Soltis stopped by the Classical 101 studios recently to give us a preview of Going Off Script.
Watch the video above to hear selections from that recording. And listen to a fascinating discussion of the factors that caused ornamentation of Bach’s cello suites to fall out of favor among generations of cellists who have performed and recorded them.
Cellist Juliana Soltis performs Going Off Script: The Ornamented Suites for Cello by J.S. Bach Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. in the Huntington Recital Hall of Capital University’s Conservatory of Music.
Solitics is offering a 30% discount to Classical 101 and WOSU listeners for the concert. Purchase tickets online and use the promo code WOSU to receive the discount.