New Book Explores How Bach Composed His Cello Suites

Air Date: 
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Cover of Book by Eric Siblin

When former pop music critic Eric Siblin first heard Bach’s Cello Suites at a performance commemorating the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, he was entranced by the music and intrigued by a program note regarding the mystery surrounding its composition. That curiosity led him to write THE CELLO SUITES: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece (Atlantic Monthly Press; January 12, 2010; 978-0-8021-1929-2), tracing the intriguing history of one of the most popular pieces of classical music ever written.

Already a bestseller in the author’s native Canada, THE CELLO SUITES tells the full story of this iconic composition in a journey of discovery that is sure to delight Bach enthusiasts and new converts alike. Publishers Weekly recently said, “Siblin is an insightful writer with an ability to convey the sound and emotional impact of music in words.” His book explores:

• How Bach came to write the Suites, and what happened to them upon his death;
• How the absence of an original manuscript led to questions about whether Bach actually composed the Suites or how he wanted them to be played;
• Whether Bach composed any of the Suites to be played on the violoncello, an instrument played during his time but not afterwards;
• Where Pablo Casals discovered them and how his performance of the Suites helped to bring them to prominence – and make his career;
• Why the Cello Suites are considered a “blank slate” for cellists;
• Siblin’s own musical awakening upon hearing the Cello Suites;
• The Cello Suites in popular culture, including their being appropriated by rock (i.e. “A Whiter Shade of Pale), electronic music, a capella, and African music;

THE CELLO SUITES is part biography, part music history, and part mystery and, as the Montreal Gazette wrote, “Conveying in mere words sounds as rich and multifarious as those that comprise the Cello Suites takes no small literary gift. To say the author has done justice to his subject is the highest praise of all.”

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