Harking ‘Bach’ to the 18th Century
Johann Sebastian Bach’s six cello suites have been beloved cornerstones of the cello’s repertoire for 300 years, but some may be surprised to learn that the modern four-stringed cello we know today was not standardized when he wrote them. “Suite No. 6 in D Major,” arguably one of Bach’s most complex, was written for a five-stringed cousin of the cello that could have taken one of several forms. The high E-string on this instrument could facilitate multi-note chords and high pitches that the modern cello cannot, making it impossible to accurately recreate the sound of “Suite No. 6 in D Major” today as it was originally written. Miranda Wilson, associate professor at U of I’s Lionel Hampton School of Music, reimagined a 21st century solution to this 18th century problem. Using support from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and the Office of Research and Economic Development, she commissioned the custom production of a five-stringed carbon fiber cello to make this complex piece more playable for the modern cellist. Wilson then used this instrument to perform “Suite No. 6 in D Major” and other compositions in concert.