The Cello Suites
A pop-music journalist falls in love with Bach’s Cello Suites and sets out to discover all he can about the classic masterpiece.
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Interestingly, Siblin shaped his book about music into what could be described as a musical word symphony. There are six sections listed as (you guessed it) “suites,” and the chapters are structured like a musical piece, including preludes, sarabands and gigues. Bach’s musical legacy is the prelude to each chapter/suite, followed by discussions of Casals’s career and Siblin’s search of a Bach for the ages. Although the structure of “The Cello Suites” will make it difficult for some people to keep everything straight, most will appreciate the way that the ebbs and flows of the book match the piece itself.Skip to next paragraph
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That being said, Siblin hasn’t created a technical volume of musical history and theory that could be classified as (please forgive me – I can’t resist) “inside cello.” Rather, Siblin firmly believes “Bach is what you make of him” – and his book represents just that.
For instance, the competing interpretations of the Cello Suites could be construed as paying homage to the composer’s genius. Casals’s refusal to play in countries that recognized Spain’s fascist government could be viewed as a way to keep his version of the Cello Suites with those who respected democracy and freedom. The recent revelation that Bach’s wife, Anna Magdalena, may have written the piece (Siblin supports the view that Casals’s discovery “was based on Anna Magdalena’s manuscript”) only adds to the mystery of Bach. And the author’s book-long search for the missing original manuscript, which led him to daydream about a “high stakes auction at Sotheby’s in London” with the piece’s true story “laid bare with all the drama one could hope for,” is the “Antiques Roadshow” moment many of us would like to have.
No matter what the great composer means to readers, they will surely enjoy Siblin’s fun, fast-paced journey from pop-music scribbler to Bach aficionado. And who knows? Maybe it will entice more music lovers to join the search for the original manuscript and find a Bach they can truly call their own.
Michael Taube is a columnist and former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.