Alisa Weilerstein Alisa Weilerstein Alisa Weilerstein
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Alisa Weilerstein

Six Suites for Cello Solo

Date of Event

Saturday, 23. 5. 2020 from 19.00
Expected end of the concert 22.15

Price

350 - 1 200 CZK

Program

  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G major BWV 1007
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor BWV 1008
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 3 in C major BWV 1009
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 4 in E flat major BWV 1010
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor BWV 1011
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 6 in D major BWV 1012

Interprets

  • Alisa Weilerstein - violoncello

An exceptional talent, an exceptional individual, exceptional playing. The American cellist Alisa Weilerstein is well known to Czech audiences, having won their hearts with a masterful performance of Dvořák’s cello concerto with the Czech Philharmonic under conductor Jiří Bělohlávek. This exceptional musical collaboration remains with us to this day thanks to an award-winning recording made for the Decca label. “The assurance with which she plays, without a single mistake […] the temperament and energy are astonishing,” Bělohlávek declared after the recording.

 

 

It’s like transcendental meditation

Weilerstein will bring out all these qualities during the recital that awaits her at the Prague Spring. Over the course of a single evening she will present all six of J. S. Bach’s suites for solo cello. There are only a few cellists capable of this arduous task, an endeavour which is tough on concentration and stamina. Weilerstein will be on the podium for a period of three hours; just the artist and her cello, a magnificent instrument crafted by Venetian master Domenico Montagnana in 1723. In fact, few people have had the good fortune to hear all six suites during a single concert; many listeners will be surprised to discover how many musical motifs they recognise. The Prelude from the first suite alone has been used extensively in films, commercials, jingles, on television and as concert encores. Weilerstein performed the complete set of suites for the first time during the 2016-2017 season in the USA and in London. “It’s like transcendental meditation, almost, this incredible arc,” she told The New York Times. “You start from No. 1, which is this flower bud of innocence, with deep purity, and then it just expands as you go through. […] At the very end, I am emotionally exhausted, physically exhausted, and my brain is turned to mush – and it’s the most wonderful feeling, a cathartic feeling. I love it.”  

German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote the suites during his time in Köthen between the years 1717 and 1723. The suite as a Baroque form contained four principal dances – the allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue; in his suites for solo cello Bach also included preludes, minuets, bourrées and gavottes. Originally, these suites were regarded more as instructive pieces; however, after public performances by Pablo Casals, one of the most important cellists of the 20th century, they became popular concert items.

It was Casals, creator of the modern style of cello playing incorporating the whole body, who considered the Bach suites as the ultimate repertoire for this instrument. He also wrote a transcription of the sixth suite for the contemporary cello since Bach had a five-string instrument in mind instead of the four strings used today.

Casals’ pre-eminence is also reflected in his performance of these suites, for he began playing them together as a set and did not merely select individual dances. He defended the use of the modern instrument for the interpretation of early music: “If one wants to undertake an interesting, though always incomplete, reconstruction of the musical atmosphere of a period, I accept the use of instruments of that period. But in any ordinary performance we ought to make use of the best instruments available nowadays, for, in my opinion, respect for the music we perform must be above all other considerations. We don´t want to conjure up the past on a historical basis (which is always only relatively exact), but to produce the best version from a musical viewpoint. […] Therefore, in order to get an “authentic” reconstitution, we would have to make the flutes and the oboes play out of tune and ask all the string players to play in a mediocre way. No, to submit oneself to archaic practices in playing Bach would only do harm to his music, which rises above the past, present and future.” This is an extract taken from Conversations with Casals by J. Ma. Corredor, published in 1957 (transl. André Mangeot). At that time, of course, the period interpretation of early music was in its initial stages. Much has happened since then, and today’s performers have at their disposal a broad palette of possible ways to interpret Bach.