News

The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece

The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece
By Eric Siblin
Atlantic Monthly Press; 270 pages
A review by R.C. Speck

This wonderful book traces the fascinating history of Bach’s famous Cello Suites. Although it is the story of a piece of music, it is also part biography and part mystery.

Author Eric Siblin structures the book to reflect the pattern of the suites themselves, dividing it into six parts and naming each chapter after the movements in each suite. He alternates chapters on Johann Sebastian Bach (the composer of the suites), chapters on Pablo Casals (the cellist who made them famous), and chapters on Siblin himself, who is on his own Cello Suite odyssey. This clever approach scores Siblin points for originality. But what does he offer that cannot be found in the piles of scholarship on Bach and Casals? He pieces together the story of the Cello Suites over the centuries, from the moment Bach may have composed them in jail, to the dusty Catalonian music shop in which young Casals found them in 1890, to today, a time when they have swelled into mythic stature.

This book review appeared in the summer 2010 issue of Quarter Notes, the member magazine of WCPE Radio, The Classical Station. To receive a subscription, become a member today!

See all our book reviews.