Cello Suite No. 1 in G major

Cello Suite No. 1 in G major

BWV 1007 performed by Lucia Swarts
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Prelude
  • 2. Allemande
  • 3. Courante
  • 4. Sarabande
  • 5. Minuet I & II
  • 6. Gigue

Behind the music

Story
Story
Extra videos
Extra videos
Credits
Credits

Apparent inconsistency

The six cello suites have been handed down in a beautiful manuscript by Bach's wife Anna Magdalena, which raises many questions.

Bach’s first cello suite became his most famous one. The cellist begins the well-known, comforting prelude in a gentle, radiant G major. The first bars are dominated by the single G, D and A strings, resulting in great resonance. This most friendly of suites is suitable for beginners and amateurs, even though it presents challenges to professionals as well. For instance, do you build up the climax leading to the end of the prelude tempestuously or with an even flow? And how should the bowing be done? The Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript in which these suites have been handed down notates the slurs above and below the notes very freely and with apparent inconsistency. Is this a question of sloppiness, or did the composer actually want the maximum variation in the note groupings?
The pattern of the suite is the one largely followed in the subsequent suites: a free prelude, followed by a fast Allemande and Courante, a contemplative Sarabande, a Minuet that makes an excursion into a minor key, and a speedy closing Gigue.

Six Cello Suites
The Six Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach are part of the Old Testament of cello literature. Every cellist who looks at the music senses immediately how naturally the notes are arranged around the strings of the instrument. Yet there are many questions and discussions about these ‘Suites a Violoncello Solo senza Basso’. Did Bach really write the music for cello, or for cello alone? When did he write this music – at the court of Cöthen or earlier? Even the authorship is called into question sometimes, although claims that Anna Magdalena Bach (who notated the only surviving manuscript) could be the author herself cannot be taken very seriously. The suites take a route from simplicity to increasing virtuosity: from the usually open strings of the first three suites, via the more complex key of E-flat major of the enigmatic Suite no. 4 to the dark Suite no. 5, which requires the cellist to tune the highest string one tone lower. Suite no. 6 is the most unusual, as it requires a five-stringed instrument – probably the viola pomposa, or otherwise the cello piccolo.

BWV
1007
Title
Suite No. 1 in G major
Instrument
Cello
Genre
chamber music
Serie
Six cello suites
Year
between 1717 and 1723
City
Köthen

Extra videos

Cellist Lucia Swarts about her instrument

“Without having seen it, Lucia Swarts bought her cello, a Pieter Rombouts from 1705. She tells about the search for the perfect sound of her 'fat lady'.”

Cellist Lucia Swarts on the first cello suite

“It's very temperamental. Very emotional. On the other hand it's very transparent and perhaps courtly.”

Cellist Lucia Swarts on Anna Magdalena's manuscript

“There is lots of room for doubt because she tended to be slovenly. - Lucia Swarts on the Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript in which these suites have been handed down.”

Vocal texs

Original

Translation

Credits

  • Release date
    28 November 2014
  • Recording date
    30 June 2014
  • Location
    Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • Cellist
    Lucia Swarts
  • Cello
    Pieter Rombouts, 1710
  • Producer
    Frank van der Weij
  • Film director
    Margien Rogaar
  • Director of photography
    Sal Kroonenberg
  • Gaffer
    Nicholas Burrough
  • Grip
    Antoine Petiet
  • Music recording producer
    Leo de Klerk
  • Film editor
    Michiel Boesveldt
  • Make up and hair
    Trudy Buren
  • Production assistant
    Judith Hulsbosch
  • Camera assistant
    Suzanne Bakker
  • Best boys
    Alban Riphagen, Sam Du Pon
  • Music edit and mix
    Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
  • Colorist
    Rachel Stone
  • Interviews
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Acknowledgements
    Mark Colly, Henk Hermanns, Janina Bleekemolen, Jasper Verkaart, Rijksmuseum