Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Compare. Contrast. Conclude.

Hello Again Music Lovers,

I bumped into a difference recently, and it knocked me right over.  I have been listening faithfully to Pieter Wispelwey's Bach Suites for Cello Solo for 20 years.  I foolishly imagined I was getting to know the Bach cello suites fairly well

And yet, I have not scraped the surface.  Here is another great cellist, Pablo Casals, playing Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.  Lovely, and so different from Pieter Wispelwey.  Wispelwey is here, but with only a very small section of the Prelude to Suite No. 1.  I am hoping, though, that you get the sense of how differently these two are playing the piece. 

I am a great dilettante of classical music-  in other words, I know nothing, but I attend with enormous adoration and enthusiasm.  So, why is Casals so much more angular, hard, swift and sharp?  While Wispelwey breezes and rounds the sounds down like river stones?  I am enjoying a fanciful explanation of my own devising, where Casals was born in a steep and rocky valley, and sounds echoed off the high cliffs like bells being rung;  And Wispelwey was born with the ceaseless sound of the sea roaring and the slow moaning of the fog horn.  When Casals sees his page of notes, he sees staccato, distinct marks to be rapped out by his bow, while Wispelwey sees his sheet of music like a line drawing, each note connected by his bow.

Which is to completely overlook the possibility that it is the cellos themselves that are playing the piece according to their own whimsy and personality....

PS  The small snippet of 'produced' video of Pieter Wispelwey talking, cannot compete with the charming and straightforward black and white filming of wordless Pablo Casals. Further study is indicated, and you must go and listen to recordings of these two and many other cellists in order to draw your conclusions.