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The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece
Synopses & Reviews
One evening, after ending a stint as a pop music critic, Eric Siblin attended a performance of Bachs Cello Suites. There, something unlikely happened: he fell deeply in love with the music. So began a 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: Bachs composition of the suites and the manuscripts disappearance in the eighteenth century, Pablo Casalss re-discovery of the music in Spain in the late nineteenth century, and Siblins infatuation with the suites at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Siblins search leads him to Barcelona, where Casals, as a teenager, roamed back streets in search of sheet music and found Bachs lost composition tucked in a dark corner. Casals would play the suites for twelve years before performing them—and making them his own. Siblin pursues the mysteries that haunt this music more than 250 years after its composers death: why did Bach compose the suites for the cello, then considered a lowly instrument? What happened to the original manuscript of the suites? The Cello Suites is a journey of discovery, fueled by the transcendent power of a musical masterpiece.
"The ironies of artistic genius and public taste are subtly explored in this winding, entertaining tale of a musical masterpiece. Music critic Siblin parallels short, fluent biographies of composer Johann Sebastian Bach, whose six suites for solo cello were long disparaged as minor student exercises, and cello virtuoso Pablo Casals, whose landmark recording of the pieces catapulted them into the classical canon. Their lives are a study in contrasts: Bach is an obscure workaday musician who feels wasted 'being merely the cantor of a Lutheran boarding school'; Casals, a musical superstar and anti-Fascist exile, is a romantic hero. Siblin intertwines his own story of trying to engage with the suites. He takes cello lessons, savors a rich variety of performances, including one on the marimbas, and embarks on a search for Bach's long-lost manuscript to discover clues to the enigmatic score. (Scholars aren't even certain the suites were written for cello.) Siblin is an insightful writer with an ability to convey the sound and emotional impact of music in words." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Eric Siblin is a Montreal-based journalist and documentary filmmaker. He worked as a reporter/editor at the Montreal bureau of The Canadian Press (CP) from 1989 to 1996 when he joined The Montreal Gazette as a staff reporter, including a stint as the newspaper's pop music critic. He made the transition to television in 2002 with the documentary Word Slingers, which explores the curious subculture of competitive Scrabble tournaments. The film was broadcast in Canada and the U.S., and won a Jury Award at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival. He also co-directed the documentary In Search of Sleep, and has written for a wide variety of magazines. The Cello Suites is his first book.
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