bach cello suites

Cellist Juliana Soltis performs selections from new album Going Off Script in the Classical 101 studio.
Nick Houser / WOSU

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.

Yo-Yo Ma opened his recent Tiny Desk concert with the gently rolling "Prelude" from J. S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1. It's music Ma has lived with nearly all of his life.

"Believe it or not, this was the very first piece of music I started on the cello when I was four years old," he told the crowd, tightly squeezed between the office furniture on NPR's fourth floor.