Cellissimo 2021 – Bach Plus Concerts

30 August 2021
Christopher Ellis performing in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church as part of the Bach Plus series.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Solo Cello Suites performed by six star cellists on six
consecutive lunchtimes from March 26 – March 31 2021 during CELLISSIMO, and was preceded
by a talk from musicologist Richard Wigmore.

First up was Swedish cellist Jakob Koranyi, coming to us from a church in Stockholm.  Along with Bach’s first cello suite, we heard works by the contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, the Hungarian György Ligeti and finished with a Swedish folk-song.

Next was the Russian cellist Tatjana Vassiljeva, principal cellist of the world-renowned Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.  Her recital came to us from Splendor in Amsterdam, one of the city’s coolest venues, a former bathhouse, run by artists for artists.  Like Jakob Koranyi previously, Tatjana turned to the Finnish Kaija Saariaho, performing her mesmerising “Spins and Spells”. She also included music from Hungary – this time the first movement of Zoltán Kodály’s monumental sonata for solo cello.

It was the turn of the charismatic British cellist Adrian Brendel next, who had chosen two British composers to ‘respond’ to his Bach Suite.  Imogen Holst’s “Fall of the Leaf” (composed in 1963)  is described as a set of three short studies for solo cello on a sixteenth-century tune, while Jonathan Harvey’s “Curve with Plateaux” (1982) takes as its starting inspiration “a model of human personality”.

Bach Plus 4 we were joined by Hannah Roberts, livestreamed from the beautiful Stoller Hall at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.  For her partner piece she took north to Scotland: today we heard “Gala Water” by Sally Beamish, composed in 1994 for Robert Irvine. It was commissioned by Galashiels Arts Association and uses a local folk tune, ‘Braw, Braw Lads of Gala Water’, part of which was heard at the end following a set of variations which embraced a range of emotions.

Next was French cellist Marc Coppey, recently decorated as Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite by the French government, made a hugely significant contribution to CELLISSIMO, at the Opening Concert, the Beethoven Sonatas concert, the student programme, and with his Bach Plus recital, which was streamed from St Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway.  His programme was wide-ranging and diverse, with music from the French classical composer Jean-Louis Duport (a friend of Beethoven), the German contemporary composer Enno Poppe and one of France’s most significant composers of the 20th century, Henri Dutilleux.

We finished our Bach Plus series with the young Irish cellist Christopher Ellis.  Hailing from Dublin, Chris is a former student of Marc Coppey in Paris and now studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas. For the recital streamed to from St Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway, his programme included just two works: the sixth Bach Suite, one of the most demanding of them all, and the invigorating cello suite by the Spanish composer Gaspar Cassadó.

Take a look at the pics of the individual performers below!