For several years Voices of Music has pursed its Great Works project. The objective is to prepare performances of significant compositions from the early music repertoire, present them at public concerts, capture those concerts with quality video recordings, and make those recordings available on YouTube. The project has its own home page on YouTube, which serves as a subdivision of the Voices of Music channel set up there by Voices of Music co-Director David Tayler. One of the current ongoing efforts within this project is the survey of the six “Brandenburg” concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach.
This month will see the first of two performances involving another side of the Bach repertoire, the six suites that he composed for solo cello. The plan is that each suite will be performed by a different cellist, and the full canon will be performed over the course of two concerts. The first of those two concerts will take place at the end of next week. The specific suites to be performed have not yet been announced; but the three cellists will be Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, William Skeen, and Tanya Tomkins (shown in the photograph below in that order):
These days is is not particularly difficult to encounter concert surveys of the six cello suites. These tend to be presented as a platform for a single cellist, often through two concerts given on a single day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. While there is a certain degree of efficiency to this approach, it does not necessarily do Bach any favors. The fact is that there is a lot of music in those six suites; and even the most dedicated listeners are likely to succumb to “cognitive overload,” even with a break between two concerts. There is also the point that Bach probably wrote these suites for pedagogical purposes, suggesting that they may be best considered individually.
Nevertheless, one can appreciate Voices of Music’s decision to program the suites on two separated concerts, each offering half of the repertoire. If Bach did not intend such a setting, the approach has a more interesting quality that probably would not have occurred to the composer. Beyond the question of pedagogy is how different performers are likely to mine different approach to interpretation from Bach’s scores. Thus, this month’s program provides an opportunity to recognize (and, hopefully, appreciate) three different interpretive stances, one for each of the suites to be played.
The San Francisco performance of this program will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 21. As in past seasons, the venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. Single tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors and members of SFEMS, EMA, or ARS, and $5 for students with valid identification. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through an Arts People event page.