Suite for Solo Cello, op. 36

I composed this piece during the first few months of 2018 when I didn’t have much else to do. Why? Who can say? One always wishes to test one’s skills against those of the great masters. Funnily enough, I’m not especially keen on Bach’s cello suites, but I consider his solo violin partitas and sonatas the pinnacle of what a composer can write for strings.

I tried to interest people in the suite for several years, either to record it or perform it or both. Alas, several passages were unplayable as written, kind of surprising when you consider that it was written by a violist. I tend to write daunting music for strings because I was never a particularly good string player, and I just assume that real instrumentalists can play anything.

My friend Ryan (the cellist featured in the demo recording on YouTube) was the person who finally took on this project, and he improved the piece tremendously; any further cellists who take this on have him to thank.

One reason that I got myself into so much trouble is that my listening habits veer strongly toward music for viola da gamba. As I wrote about in the blurb on my solo bass piece “Tombeau / Les Rêves”, I’ve been obsessed with that repertoire since encountering Tous les matins du monde as a kid. The problem is that the viola da gamba typically has six or seven strings, and they’re tuned closer together than on the cello. So the sonorities ringing in my ears are not necessarily the most idiomatic on the cello.

And yet, it can be played, as Ryan has proven.