Book Title: Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff
Category: Adult non-fiction, 1189 pages
Genre: Biography / Music
Release date: June 2015
Tour dates: Nov 30 – Dec 18, 2015
Content Rating: G
FROM TRAGEDY TO TRANSCENDENCE
A Totally Immersive Multimedia Experience
Richly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its Legacy
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd
Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby
Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites
From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.
Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.
For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his live, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.
In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.
Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cothen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.
Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.
In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.
The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:
• How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.
• The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.
• How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.
• How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.
• The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.
• What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.
I received a 3-Disc CD Gift. This year was a very stressful year for me, and I find this very calming. It’s nice to listen to while doing chores around the house or whenever you need to de-stress. I’ve never been a fan of this type of music, but now I’m finding it one of my favorites.
Tell us about Bach, the musician. What makes his music so special?
To me, the mystery and the greatness of Bach’s music lie in his unerring mastery, his ability to unify the expression of breathtaking beauty, primal emotion, vast power, and intellectual rigor, and to do so on a giant canvas. The confluence of these elements evokes the feeling of flow, the feeling that each note inevitably follows the preceding one, such that there is never a “wrong” note, only “right” ones – never a random note, only meaningful ones.
The music of Bach has no trace of negativity, only exaltation and upliftedness – “the permissible delights of the soul,” as Bach himself put it. He seems to have created music from a state of reverence, awe, and wonder at Creation itself, as an act of gratitude for having been created to witness and participate in it, and with an innate feeling of personal proximity to eternity itself. One feels exposed to unveiled cosmic truth by means of transparent musical purity.
It is almost as though rather than having been composed, the music emanated from some exalted plane to which Bach was somehow attuned, perhaps something like The Music of the Spheres, the Keplerian notion contemporaneous with Bach, that ultimately music is the sound of Universal relationship – “the movements of the planets are modulated according to harmonic proportions … as God, the Creator Himself, has expressed it in harmonizing the heavenly motions,” as Johannes Kepler put it in his masterpiece, Harmonices Mundi in 1619, and with which Bach definitely would have been familiar. Or, as the great Pablo Casals most elegantly and succinctly put it, “Music is the Divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” Like some bodhisattva, Bach seemed born to translate and transmit this music to us all.
Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Masters degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.