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ISSUE 119 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/7/2005

'Suite' Bach concerts

By Tom Niemisto
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 7, 2005

Ask any cellist on campus or off about what cello pieces they cherish and they will likely mention the Bach suites. They often serve as a foundation for learning various techniques early in the study of cello, but they are more than etudes or exercises. The suites contrast swift virtuosity with lyrical lullabies.

Musicians can revisit and restudy the suites countless times to explore new musical possibilities and interpretations, as Associate Professor of Music David Carter has done over the last 11 years.

Carter presented a special treat for the musical community in a two-Tuesday, two-concert series featuring all six of the “Suites for Unaccompanied Cello” by J.S. Bach. Musicologists consider these pieces some of Bach'’s best-written music.

To hear the suites in their entirety, perhaps how Bach meant for them to heard, is unforgettable. Carter's personal story makes the performances even more remarkable.

Carter opened both recitals with brief introductions. He is legally blind, the result of the degenerative retinal disease choroideremia, yet he has been impressively active as a performer and teacher for decades.

He performed the suites eleven years ago in a similar recital format, and talked about how much different it was preparing and performing them now.

The last time he performed all the suites his sight was not so drastically impaired. He was not using a cane and could still drive a car (though the thought of driving now gave him a scare).

Unfortunately, his sight has diminished quite seriously in the last five years. Since last performing the suites, Carter took a sabbatical to attend a training program in Minneapolis for the visually impaired.

Carter also briefly discussed the distinguished musicality of the suites. The harmonic modes of the suites are (in order): major, minor, major, major, minor, major, inducing a cyclical pattern of symmetry. Along the same lines, all six movements in each suite share titles: prelude, allemande, courante, sarabande, minuets/gavottes and gigue.

"The suites share many common characteristics, yet each is unique. “For example, the first and sixth suites are both major and seem to mimic the pastoral trends of the time Bach wrote them,"” Carter said. “"While the second and fifth suites are both in minor, the second is somber while the fifth seems very tragic to me.”"

Carter’'s warm personality came through with his interpretations of the music. Carter played Bach in such a fresh and energized way, it seemed as if it was written yesterday. He performed with a fluidity of style that lets the cello sing.

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