J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece
One evening, not long after ending a stint as the pop music critic at the Montreal Gazette,
Eric Siblin attended a recital of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Cello Suites.” There, something unlikely happened: he fell deeply in love with the music. So began an epic quest that would unravel three centuries of intrigue, politics, and passion.
Part biography, part music history, and part mystery, The Cello Suites
weaves together three dramatic narratives: Bach’s composition of the suites and the manuscript’s subsequent disappearance in the eighteenth century; Pablo Casals’s historic discovery of the music in Spain in the late nineteenth century, and his popularization of the suites several decades later; and Siblin’s own infatuation with the suites at the dawn of the twenty-first century. His search to learn all he can about the music leads Siblin to Barcelona
, where Pablo Casals, just thirteen and in possession of his first cello, roamed the back streets with his father, in search of sheet music. To their amazement, they found Bach’s lost “Cello Suites” tucked in a dark corner. Casals would play the suites every day for twelve years before finally performing them in publicand making them his own.
As Siblin pursues the mysteries that continue to haunt this music more than 250 years after its composer’s death, he asks the questions that have stumped modern scholars: why did Bach compose the suites for the cello, which was considered a lowly instrument in his day? And what happened to the original manuscript of the suites, which vanished after being hastily copied by Bach’s second wife?
The Cello Suites
is a journey of discovery, fueled by the transcendent power of a musical masterpieceand of the listeners who, like Siblin, have loved it through the ages.