Bach: Cello Suite no. 3 - Sarabande and Gigue
Joseph Wang (viola)
“Learn this from memory because it’s so much fun to play in the streets. So you go out in the streets and play. People will be so excited.”
— Benjamin Zander
Ben Zander: Okay. Let’s take that first movement. Very good. So you’re playing the viola very, very well. That’s great. And as usual, I have two things to say. One is about who you are being and the other is what you are doing. All right. Who you’re being. You don’t dance much, do you? No. I knew that. I knew that because you’re an American guy. Do you know? A teenager. Teenagers don’t dance.
Ben Zander: In Bach’s time, everybody danced. Everybody danced. I mean, everybody in the aristocracy, in the place where this music was written and played. And there are certain gestures, a sarabande is a dance. You heard me talking to Pamela again about the sarabande. It’s the same… Isn’t that amazing? It’s the same gesture. The thing that’s characteristic of the sarabande is that it’s the second beat that’s emphasized. Do you know that? So one of the problems is the tempo you are playing, nobody could possibly dance to it. Have you thought about that?
Joseph Wang:Mm-mm (negative).
Ben Zander: Probably you haven’t because you are a viola player, not a dancer. And I say, that sounds like a joke. I actually mean it because the instrument is just a vehicle for whatever the music is saying. And I don’t know if you noticed, but I put buckles on my shoes today because in those days when I’m standing in the first position… I mean, that’s just chance. Because these pieces were written with a particular gestalt in mind, a certain way of being; a dance. Now, it doesn’t need to be exactly what they did. I looked up this morning. Where is Scott? Are you… Is Scott there? Is he in there? Play a sarabande.
Ben Zander: It’s beautiful. Isn’t it? When you hear that, you know they’re dancing. Right? You can see them dancing. Isn’t that fascinating? It’s a totally different feeling. And like the Brahms, I was just with Pamela, it’s also one in a bar because you have to dance. One, two… And the other thing is there are lots of different notes. For instance. … So 1, 2… 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. 1…
Ben Zander: How that dances? Should we try that? I know it’s a very different way of playing. But you know? The way that you are playing is the way that’s been passed on through the traditions, through the way that everybody, all the cellists play. But we don’t need to do that. You understand that because much rather go through… That’s a Handel sarabande, which I discovered this morning. So beautiful. Just play a little of it again. Is he still there? Scott? To play little?
Ben Zander: Now, look at this.
Speaker 4: Temps de Courante or pas grave three times and a coupé forward.
Ben Zander: Isn’t that beautiful?
Speaker 4: Six pas de bourrées beginning with the right foot. And ending with pas de sissonne forwards.
Ben Zander: Okay. Should we try it? I could lend you my shoes, but…
Ben Zander: Bravo. That’s much better. Now we’re on the move. Now we can imagine the dance, right? What’s happening here? There’s a pattern. … Now this is inner voices. Now again, pattern. … And this is a surprise. … You get it? So two bars, pattern, inner voice. … Like the bass. Now it starts again. … From the beginning. And 1…
Ben Zander: Bravo. Oh, now we’re talking. Now we’re talking. Bravo. Bravo. The only thing missing is you should dance. Cellists can’t do this, but you can actually do this because you’re free to move. Ready? And… Yeah. There’s no particular virtue.
Ben Zander: Now, that’s a different person playing there. Wow. Bravo. They want to clap, so let them clap. Yeah. Yeah. Now that’s a different person.
Ben Zander: So do it one more time. It’s the last time you’ll ever do it. Are you ready? You know? You are allowed to convey in your face that you love this music and that you love the fact that you are a dancer. Can you pretend that you’re having a good time? Right? You say… Because if you’re having a good time, they’ll have a good time. It’s an invitation to the dance. Just come here a moment. Just invite them to dance. See? Right. Okay. Here we go. You’re going to play. Yeah. But don’t look down here because all the dancers are actually up here. …
Ben Zander: Beautiful. That’s very good. Beautiful. He’s ready to dance. Come on. Come on. Let’s go. Great. Now, let’s go on find out what happens next. Yeah. I would suggest you think of this voice… Not… Right? …
Ben Zander: Beautiful. So this C-sharp. This C-sharp. … okay. Can you try from there? … Okay. In a Baroque cellist or gambist would play the stroke like this. A very delicate… Can you just try that? … Bravo. That’s great. And Joe, my teacher used to play this piece. And it was 70 years ago, literally, or 65 years ago. And I never forget the sound that he made. … Very soft. Can you try that? Beautiful. Those moments are so special that people remember them 60 years ago or 65 years ago. I remember that sound. Beautiful. Go on. Next.
Ben Zander: That makes much more sense already. We’re following the line. Think of this. … A goes to B to C, D. A…
Ben Zander: So help the ear of the listener from here. … Why do you do that separate? … That feels alive. Yes, I would do it slowly. This is slow. … Space. Beautiful. That’s the idea. I would end it softly because it’s a delicate dance. A sarabande was a stately dance. When it started in Spain, it was a lascivious dance. It was with castanets and very forward women. And it moved to France and became very elegant the way you saw it in that picture. And that’s where Bach took it from. Right? So we do it once again from the beginning without repeating. And 1 and. …
Ben Zander: Beautiful. Well done. Very good. One thing you might think about when you play is you have a funny kind of bent position. Has that ever been mentioned?
Joseph Wang: Yeah.
Ben Zander: So don’t do it. If something is mentioned by somebody, stop doing it. You know? Like picking your nose or smoking or something like that. Just stop it. Okay? So now in this case, stand in the way that you would dance. And then you create a visual illusion and I think it helps your playing. Just stand absolutely straight. Beautiful. Great. First position just so you practice. You know what first position? That’s first position. There we go. Now play it. 2, 3, and stay in that position.
Ben Zander: That’s the way. Good. That’s something to work on. Great. Do the Gigue.
Ben Zander: Good. All right. Very good. Now, we have a tradition that when we make mistakes, we go, “How fascinating.” Now, how fascinating, in this case, is you have to practice it more and learn it, but you’re doing great. So when I was about 15, I remember my teacher, Cassadó, told me something and I’ve never forgotten what he said. He said, “The gigue comes from the giga. And the person who gave the news went into the streets and played the giga, played the… and told the news.” And that’s what a gigue is. It’s a rough country dance. It’s not like a nurtured… It’s not cultured. Right? So…
Ben Zander: So now, these people are going out into the world and we are not going to see them for a month. And you’ve got to play in such a way that they feel buoyed up for a whole month. Right? You’re going to get that? So you’re going to have to use all the energy you can muster to do that. So let’s try from the… And make that… That beginning is so… Sorry now. Sorry. … 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. 1 and… The news. …
Now we’re getting… That’s the spirit. Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And now, tell them. Tell them what comes next in the news. Do you have that from memory? Come here. Come here. Tell them. And get used to… These are the people. Don’t worry about the violin, or the viola in this case, the giga. Worry about the news. Tell them the news. And it’s good news.
Ben Zander: You know? My father said something wonderful about… Our father said about… He was a Jew. But he said, when we were kids, he said, “Either the Christian story is true, in which case it’s the greatest event in the history of the world, and if it isn’t, it’s still the greatest tragic poem.” Isn’t that beautiful? I mean, it’s for all of us. The point is, this time of year is for everybody to celebrate and celebrate spirit and love and enthusiasm and joy. Should we do that? The second half?
Ben Zander: And remember, this is the last thing they’re going to hear for a month because in between they’re going to hear all those Christmas carols at the supermarket, at the wrong tempo. Yeah. Right? 1 and 2. … Yeah. That sends a… Yeah. That’s fine. I’ll bring you your music so you feel more comfortable. But learn it from memory because it’s so much fun to play in the streets. So you go out in the streets and play. People will be so excited. … Okay. …
Ben Zander: Chairman of the board. … And here we go. … So joyful. … So joyful, so joyful, joyful. … Jawohl. Welcome back. Welcome back.