Sunday, 6 September 2015

A feast of Bach

Without the car today, it was necessary to take a bus. I walked down to Cowbridge Road, and took a 13 as far as the old bus station. It couldn't go any further as there were road closures around the city centre, due to a 10k road run disrupting normal traffic. From there, it took me just twenty minutes to reach St Germans in good time. Bright sun shone into the church during the service. It's a great place to worship in good weather. Afterwards I had a lift home with a congregation member living nearby, so I got in for lunch at my usual Sunday time. Owain had just emerged from the shower after a long lie-in to recover from a late night, so we ate together before he left for Bristol.

Last night we missed Yo Yo Ma's performance of the six Bach 'Cello suites at the BBC Proms, but Clare found the repeat with her iPad, and we listened to it together. The sound levels weren't very satisfactory and I couldn't get the iPad to feed sound into our hi-fi system, much to my annoyance, so eventually I found the podcast on my phone, and played the second half of the recital at better volume over the hi-fi. Performing all six suites in one go is certainly a virtuoso tour de force for a sixty year old. His pace was quite brisk for many of the dances. I couldn't imagine moving at that pace, but it was impressive. I prefer Pablo Casals and Paul Tortelier versions, both more measured and lyrical, as befits Europeans for whom the nature of the folk melodies employed by Bach would be part of their deep cultural heritage.

Some of the pieces from the 'Cello suites have been transcribed for guitar and I few of them I have been trying to learn to play properly for the past fifty years, with scant success, though much love. In University days we got to know them well, as we bought the Casals Deutsche Grammophon records of Suites 1-4, and played them until we knew the off by heart. We either couldn't find or afford suites 5-6, so it's a delight to listen to them with fresh ears, barely acquainted with them. Our dear friend David Barker, a 'cellist, like my Dad and daughter Rachel, played to us selections from the suites as he was learning them. He died of cancer thirty years ago, and there are melodies here which I cannot hear without thinking of him. Often we sang folk music together in our youth, just for pleasure rather than performance. I still grieve his untimely death.

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