I had asked her what some of her favorite solo cello stuff to listen to was and she said, “Oh, hands down, Pablo Casals doing the Bach Cello Suites.” I couldn’t find it at first so she ripped me a CD (a sign of the times). I played it to death over the years.
I had always found Bach intriguing. It sounds like it feels to get lost in a picture. And not just any picture, but like, a photo of interesting architecture or maybe even an Escher.
The melodies flow, flip, twist – and the conclusions play like logical arguments, turning themselves inside out to show their clear and obvious conclusions.
When you strip Bach’s craft all the way down to a single line of melody, all the bones are left exposed. That’s what makes these solo cell suites such a sonic world to explore. You can see into all the corners and spaces if you pay close enough attention.
The recordings are a little grainy, but Casals’s performance is impeccable. It’s lush and sparse, mathematical and emotive. It’s probably one of my favorite ways to hear Bach. Still.
When life gets crazy or stuff gets hard, the Bach: Cello Suites are my answer. She had good taste.
Skip to about a minute in to see him at work: