Bach: Cello Suite no. 1 - Prelude
Jonathan Butler (cello)
Very very beautiful. Well I’m not surprised. You’re a wonderful cellist, and a wonderful musician and it’s, it’s just a joy to listen to you so I don’t have any advice to give you. I want to introduce some ideas. And you either like them or you don’t, you take them or you don’t. The thing about Bach is that he left very little information, and so, about tempo, about anything actually, he just wrote the notes. And so it’s up to us, and so all you can do is to sort of listen and think, and connect it to other pieces and say it might be, that’s interesting, maybe this is interesting. What I found about your piece, or your performance of it it was very beautiful. And I was felt I was constantly distracted by things you were doing. Now that’s okay. It’s not, you were pointing out beautiful things and I found myself a little distracted by it because I think it comes from a different tradition, but I’m not right and you’re wrong, you understand. I’m just going to suggest what the tradition, I think it comes from. Do you know this piece?
When I was young I used to hear that piece and I remember one performance I heard, it was very slow it was very
beautiful for a while, and it was this slow.
It was great, it was very beautiful and then I started to wonder, why does he repeat everything?
That’s beautiful but then he repeats it. And I got sort of irritated after a while. Then I looked at the music and I
thought hmm what he’s doing? Is he’s playing it on a hop C chord or a clavichord? He’s playing chords.
It doesn’t sound boring at all and I just uncovered an amazing thing which is not apparent at all when you play it slowly. Which is that there’s a seven-bar phrase in here. This is an amazing thing there’s a seven-bar phrase.
(Piano playing) Look one two three
Five Six Seven
This is 7-bar chord but how would you know if you play so slow that you can’t even hear there are bars in there. So knowing that and taking that on. How would it be if you thought of this in that tradition and then you’ll understand why he repeats everything. The reason he repeats in here is because you can’t sustain it there’s no pedal. (Piano playing) All you can do is repeat it but he’s, actually doing that and this is. So we try it just for fun. I mean a completely different way of playing it. But just try it so.
Beautiful, it’s great and you know what, it’s gorgeous what you’re doing and thank you for being so flexible that you can just take on like putting on your new suit so I’ll try a different suit. So that’s great. You’re still maybe a little too much pointing out notes that are actually pretty obvious and then when there’s a note that isn’t obvious you’ve given away the shop. So I would save for when it isn’t, when it isn’t particularly surprising. The beginning is not at all surprising.
That’s an event, but other than that, should we just try that for fun.
So when you do that then it doesn’t become about the base, it becomes about all three notes, so you hear the whole harmony. If you do this this the other voices become less important, when you do it everybody, everything is important.
There’s a wonderful thing I always called the pulse, the cosmic pulse of Bach. Someone can tap into the cosmic pulse, and that’s what this piece is about. It just accumulates, and if you look up to the ceiling can you get that camera up in the air and so up in the air you see that’s, look at that. This is a miniature version of Symphony
Hall in Boston you know that. So yeah, wow I’m just filling this hall with the beauty accumulated sound
of that cosmic pulse can we just do the end one more time. And to express joy there because you know Bach at 20
children. (Laughter) You know just you’re a little bit you’re depressed, don’t be. If you are depressed, be my guest it’s fine but don’t bring it into the music. On the contrary, let the music suffuse you with that mood, joy, and exuberance, and love. Which is what Bach did better than anybody right. So should we just try from
from. (Piano playing) I wouldn’t make so much of that.
Good. We are like priests, we musicians we’re priests and we have a congregation and we can’t afford to do self-indulgent things like be depressed or look depressed or think about ourselves. I am a very important priest. You know, he people, the priests like that or the vicars like that, they take them away in a white van you know because they don’t understand that people aren’t coming to the church to see them you got that. You know what he wrote when you finished a piece of Union what Bach wrote at the end of every piece of music? You know what he wrote, “For the Glory of God”. So we’re priests and you just did that, and the faces were just spectacular. That’s a successful sermon and they’re great that was beautiful. Thank you and you know what, I just want to acknowledge for a moment, Jonathan is a finished artist, he’s not a kid he’s not even really a student. He’s an artist, he came in here with a beautiful point of view, and strongly expressed and convincingly expressed, and then for me changing that is essential it’s essential for everybody in life but boy is it essential for musicians, that ability to just change. Put on a new mask, and you did that absolutely magnificent. Everybody appreciated, I mean nobody, there was no resistance, no “but wait a minute I’m important”, none of that. You said oh this is curious, how nice I’ll try it and did it brilliantly so that’s it, that’s very moving to watch somebody do that. Very very moving to see that kind of openness, flexibility, engagement, contact. All that’s great, really great so, thank you.