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The Cello Suites: Inspired by Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach , Yo-Yo Ma Audio CD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Audio CD, 1998 --  

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Product Details

  • Performer: Yo-Yo Ma
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (February 17, 1998)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B0000029YB
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,307 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Suite No. 1 In G Major: Prelude - J. S. Bach
2. Suite No. 1 In G Major: Allemande - J. S. Bach
3. Suite No. 1 In G Major: Courante - J. S. Bach
4. Suite No. 1 In G Major: Sarabande - J. S. Bach
5. Suite No. 1 In G Major: Menuett 1 - 2 - J. S. Bach
6. Suite No. 1 In G Major: Gigue - J. S. Bach
7. Suite No. 2 in D minor: Prelude - J. S. Bach
8. Suite No. 2 in D minor: Allemande - J. S. Bach
9. Suite No. 2 in D minor: Courante - J. S. Bach
10. Suite No. 2 in D minor: Sarabande - J. S. Bach
See all 21 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Suite 4 in E flat Major: Sarabande - J.S.Bach
2. Suite 4 in E flat Major: Bouree 1- 2 - J.S.Bach
3. Suite 4 in E flat Major: Gigue - J.S.Bach
4. Suite 5 in C Minor: Prelude - J.S.Bach
5. Suite 5 in C Minor: Allemande - J.S.Bach
6. Suite 5 in C Minor: Courante - J.S.Bach
7. Suite 5 in C Minor: Sarabande - J.S.Bach
8. Suite 5 in C Minor: Gavotte 1 - 2 - J.S.Bach
9. Suite 5 in C Minor: Gigue - J.S.Bach
10. Suite 6 in D Major: Prelude - J.S.Bach
See all 15 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Though they were long misunderstood as mere technical hurdles, Bach's six suites for unaccompanied cello are among those rare works of music that offer inexhaustible rewards for performer and listener alike. Yo-Yo Ma gave a pathbreaking account of the suites back in the '80s (Suites for Unaccompanied Cello ) but returns to them here impelled by a unique and interdisciplinary approach. For this project, Ma engaged the talents of artists in different fields--ranging from a landscape artist to a Kabuki actor and figure skaters--to produce six short films as a visual correlative for the highly distinctive character of each suite. While the success of the films in illuminating Bach's creativity is decidedly uneven, Ma brings the music itself to life with a searing, quasi-vocal eloquence. His interpretations are probing, characterized by imaginative bowing and attention to the spacious architecture of Bach's score. This is especially clear in Ma's preference for broad, expansive tempos and patient spinning of filigreed detail. True, the generally Romantic cast of his conception can seem overdone and exaggerated in statement, as if Ma is more intent on overlaying his own personality on the discipline of the music. But the prayerful, meditative concentration he brings to the Sarabandes--listen to the single-lined, anguished tone painting in Suite 5--is utterly convincing. There is a sense of profound introspection here, while in the Sarabande of Suite 6 Ma's phrasing suggests we are in the same spiritual terrain as Beethoven's late quartets. Yet there is no lack of blistering energy and extroverted high spirits in some of the more overtly dance-oriented movements. While purists may complain of distortion in these accounts, Ma once again proves he has something vital to say with this music. --Thomas May

Product Description


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very spiritual performance January 25, 2001
By P. Rah
Format:Audio CD
Bach's suites for cello are a must for any music lover. Like all of Bach's music it has an enlightening quality and Ma's performance of these suites is simply stunning. He throws the stylistic dogma that bitterly divides people out the window and shares his feelings about the music with us. Many people who have reviewed this set have complained about a lack of rhythmic drive and thrust in some suites, but I don't think that Ma is being slack about rhythm at all. If one listens carefully enough, one will hear that the cellist has a drive which makes absolute sense rhythmically.
I feel that this set is the most spiritual performance I have ever heard (and believe me, I've heard most of the available recordings), and in some suites (No.1, 2, 5 especially) Ma's playing has an inner quality that just transcends all possible musical dogmas and just lets the music be itself - one must remember that Bach was a deeply religious man and it shows in all of his works, and this religious spirituality is what I feel in this performance. Also, some people have complained about the over-romanticising of the suites. But music is not ALWAYS about stylistic correctness, it is about true emotion and Ma is a true comminucator of these emotions. Too much analysis of music has divided opinions too much, and while I admire many facets of the authentic movement, I feel that the insistence to play baroque or classical music in such a way means that one loses the point of playing music. Just because Bach lived in the 17th century, it doesn't mean that he didn't have feelings like people now. Ma's playing completely structured (something that was lacking in his first recording of the suites), and because it is so firmly grounded, he can take liberties which do justice to the music more than an injustice.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding October 30, 1998
Format:Audio CD
I suspect I don't have all that well-tuned an ear, but Ma's latest recording of the cello suites is truly outstanding-especially when combined with the video series that came out with it. I enjoy this recording somewhat more than Janos Starker's EMI (?) recording of the cello suites which I also have. Ma seems to lighten the mood of them somewhat--more, as he commented, of a prayer. The mood in Starker's interpretation seems to me darker, lonelier (though I think it would be wrong to say that one is 'better' than the other. I find myself listening to one or the other to fit my mood.)
Ma's greatest achievement, both here and in what he records of other stuff, is to bring an incredible multidisiplinary energy to the music; making it much more accessible to wider audiences. There's a scene in the film of him playing one of the suites on a traffic island in New York (?); his case is open for money and a sign next to him reads: "There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right notes at the right time and the music plays itself.--J.S. Bach"
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exceptionally well played December 21, 1999
Format:Audio CD
Yo Yo Ma- Inspired By Bach- The Cello Suites (Sony Classical S2K 63203)
I love Bach with a passion and the cello is my favourite instrument to truly stir the soul with. Cellist Yo Yo Ma has never been a favourite of mine as a rule, not because he is not talented but simply because I've never really heard anything that moved me on that emotional level, which I find is an incredibly important aspect of music for me. Sure I quite enjoyed his tribute to Astor Piazzolla awhile back, but let's be honest every man and his dog was recording one and I wonder, if it had not been for the musicians he was using would it have been as good as it was. Personal opinion only, by the way.
This recording though for unaccompanied cello changes my view on the man and puts him right up there with other interpreters of the music of JS Bach. This is also the music that accompanies the six part series which I have not seen so the music has to stand on its own, as it should. This is sparse music of incredible beauty and complexity. I believe YYM originally recorded the same suites for Sony back in the eighties, and for him it was somewhat of a personal voyage of discovery to not only re record them but also interpret them with the various artists and film directors he chose to employ for the series. I haven't heard such passionate playing in quite some time. Bach's six suites are incredibly rewarding to listen to and if indeed these are the pieces that musicians are measured up against in terms of degree of difficulty in playing, or level of emotional or intellectual involvement with their chosen instrument, the ability to not only colour the sound but also visualise the music for the audience, then Yo Yo Ma has indeed proven that he may well be the man who takes the cello to new heights.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Album January 8, 2005
By John
Format:Audio CD
I am writing because there were several reviews commented that this version is tuned lower and Mr. Ma is taking liberty to the music as written, concluding that this is not a good album.

This cello solo suite is tunned to how Bach inteded to be played. Modern music post-WWI uses 440 Hz for the concert pitch. In Bach era, they were tuned to 421-425 Hz for orchestra/solo/vocal. About half step lower.

He seems to play this piece on "well-tempered" tuning system and tuned to 421-425 Hz A, which is the reason I think this recording sounds more musical than the earlier recording (which is played on 440Hz A and more modern equal temperment tuning). It brings out more key color charcteristic and sounds more musical and pleasing.

If you are not sure what I am talking about you should do some research on tempered tuning system and variations of concert pitch. Pretty much all the modern orchestra plays music pieces completely different than what the composer intended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great music
Great music, I will be honest, I am a layman only, (personally I couldn't play any instrument to save my own life.) I read the reviews that complained of pitch and tone... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Steve C. Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have bought other "Best Of" (compilations) from Yo-Yo
If you have just started to enjoy Yo-Yo Ma's musical talent and have bought the other best of / compilations, like the "Essential Yo-Yo Ma", buy this too... Read more
Published 5 months ago by C
5.0 out of 5 stars My Go-To Set
The first thing you should know, if you are coming to this without knowing what it is, this is a studio recording of the J. S. Bach's Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Stephen McLeod
5.0 out of 5 stars YYM in pure form! Recording quality a bit sloppy.
It's YYM! Amazing! Notwithstanding, I found the recording and post-recording production a bit sloppy - this is not to be taken as a comment related to the sounds produced by YYM! Read more
Published 9 months ago by Erik Cherdak
5.0 out of 5 stars Ahhhhh....
Crisp, clear, clean sound...perfect for a Sunday morning while drinking a cup of coffee and perusing a new cook book. Puts a girl in the right frame of mind!
Published 13 months ago by Lean Machine
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Yo Yo Ma and Bach
I have been a fan of Yo Yo Ma for years and love Bach. Saw a video of him in Japan at the Great Buddha and he did one of the works on the cd. Really enjoy it, great buy
Published 19 months ago by randolph sorrell
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful CD.
Inspiring. Restful. Beautiful music from a master cellist. I am not a musician but I love music. This recording is well worth it.
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Music for the soul and then some
This is cracking music. No, I'm fibbing. Should not describe grand stuff inspired by Bach and played by a virtuoso (Mr Yo-Yo Ma) as cracking. Read more
Published 22 months ago by "Belgo Geordie"
5.0 out of 5 stars As close as you can get to god.
I can't remember why I bought these but I've had them for over 10 years and thank god for digital music cause the CDs wore out. Read more
Published on January 22, 2012 by F. Y. Chan
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Ma's Best!
This recording seems to feature two different performers: Suites 1-3 played in mainstream acceptable tempos and suites 4-6 played so slowly that the sense of pulse seems to be... Read more
Published on November 8, 2011 by H. Powders
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