The Cello Suites: In Search of a Baroque Masterpiece Paperback – 6 Jan 2011
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"In Siblin's world, Bach and Casals have real, beating hearts... He brings an unstuffy freshness to the often staid world of classical music writing... This book reminds us of the joy of exploration, of finding glorious things in the least likely places" (Suzy Klein New Statesman)
"Bach and Casal's stories are lucidly, even grippingly, told" (Daily Telegraph)
"A passionate ode to the joy of discovery... He doesn't patronise and writes about Bach for a reader like himself - who wants to know more but doesn't know where to start... What a gift" (Natalie Clein The Times)
"A work of ever-percolating interest...tirelessly enthusiastic" (New York Times)
"One of the most extraordinary, clever, beautiful, and impeccably researched books I have read in years" (Simon Winchester)
The remarkable search to discover the truth about some of the greatest music ever written.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Although Siblin took a few cello lessons in the course of writing this book, it is astonishing that he is not a cello player. He is, indeed, a pop journalist who happened to fall in love with the six suites. It is now scarcely believable that the cello suites were for two centuries regarded as mere études and not suitable for performance. It was Pablo Casals who made them famous only a century ago after he had come across the score in a second-hand shop as a 13-year old out with his Dad for the day in Barcelona. As Casals himself has put it, "these suites seem to shine with the most glittering kind of poetry".
Siblin isn't much concerned with technical aspects of the suites but offers instead a good deal of autobiographical detail about how he went about finding out about them, and he combines this with fascinating, if somewhat unstructured, discussions of themes loosely - often very loosely - related to each of the suites. These themes include the life, work and frustrations of J S Bach; his musical sons; and the roles played by Felix Mendelssohn and Pablo Casals in putting Bach on the map. Casals' extraordinary life, in particular his courageous stand against the Franco regime in Spain, is dealt with at considerable length.
This is an elegant and absorbing book in which Eric Siblin's deep love of the six cello suites comes across strongly. In reading it, I found that my own love of the suites was also deepened. That was not what I expected either.
It starts when he describes a visit to a recital, where he speaks disparagingly of the way classical music events are staged and presented. Mainly they appear to be too stuffy and lacking in sparkle. This rings a little hollow to me as a refugee from rock concerts, where the marshals treat the paying guests like lepers, the band always arrive hours after advertised, the sound is engineered without care for the paying customers, etc etc. Does he not consider that a different type of attending is taking place?
Later he dismisses the whole of the historically-informed performance movement, describing it as musical "fascisim". He parrots the old chestnuts about dry, scholarly performances without soul. With his vast several weeks of experience in this music he knows where its heart lies, and sees fit to dismiss in one line the efforts of many studious, well-trained musicians who have thought long and hard about their approach to it. There are long and complex arguments to be made both for and against historically-informed performance, but Siblin engages with none of these and dismisses it all with one wave of his pen.
I didn't get any further in the book, I'm afraid. There were good things in it, but I had lost patience with the too-familiar cocksure voice of a journalist who knows all about a subject and its moral core after a few months' study.
I was delighted to find that the book was as good as the cello suites in sustaining the reader's interest and fascination. And, for me, the author is ideally suited to his subject, because he came to it "from the outside" - he is not a cellist, a professional classical musician, a music academic or critic; he is someone with very good musical knowledge who wants to share with you his discovery of this amazing music. And he does it very, very well.
I lent me copy of the book to a friend, and it has not come back to me. But I feel the need to read it again - or at least dip into it. So now I am buying the Kindle edition - it is harder to lose track of a Kindle book than the wandering paperback!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent book for the non-specialist who simply loves listening to this music. The author writes with genuine affection for his subject and a verve which makes the book... Read morePublished 4 months ago by T. Denniss
A beautiful, beautiful book. I know nothing of the background to Bach's celebrated Cello Suites and Siblin turns their decline and resurrection into the most wonderful and... Read morePublished on 10 July 2014 by miranda seymour
Very readable and enjoyable book.
The book is something of a page turner well written and very informative. Read more
Eric Siblin, once a Pop music reviewer, has written a masterly account of Bach's cello suites by weaving together three biographical histories: that of his own discovery of the... Read morePublished on 5 May 2014 by Merlin Catweasel
If you are interested in the cello this book is a must! Well researched and turns some dry details into a detective story. Excellent book.Published on 17 April 2014 by Mel
The author seems to have been smitten by the Bach Cello Suites from the first moment he discovered them. He has enjoyed researching and then writing about his experiences. Read morePublished on 15 Feb. 2014 by Janet Brown
Very well written, informative, entertaining. The book gives an exciting insight in the lifes of the Bach family, and of Pablo Casals.Published on 21 Nov. 2013 by D. Muntendam
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