As we come to the end of Lent, we also complete our adventures through the six Suites for Solo Cello, written in the early 1700s by J.S. Bach.
Each suite has echoed a different path or journey. Some movements have been jaunty, others dark and brooding. The music of the final suite is the most contemplative of the works. Primarily in a major key, this work nevertheless often feels reflective and inward-looking. The tempos in the middle movements are drawn out, giving the music spaciousness: quick-moving notes, but never a hurried pace.
We do not hurry into Holy Week, at least we shouldn’t. Despite knowing the story and the events that are about to unfold, we are wise to pause and consider our next steps. Jesus’ words “Can you drink this cup?” cannot be dismissed or brushed off. We need dedicated time, silence, and space to be sure that we are prepared to walk into (and through) the coming week intentionally.
Bach’s music helps. It forces me to breathe. To take time.
This final suite is the most expansive, in breadth (length) and depth (octave range). The musician uses all of the lessons from the previous suites to prepare for and to pour into this final music. The themes from previous suites are reflected, creating something both familiar and new. The rhythms feel more comfortable. The music is contemplative but confident. Hope is woven into the fabric of the journey, easing the labor of the path.
I trust that the weeks of reflection and resonance with Bach have encouraged you for the path ahead. May the Lord be with you in these days.
This week’s playlist includes two versions of the 6th Suite. If you are interested in the technical challenges that this suite presents to the performer, the recording by Sergey Malov includes links to articles and interviews with fascinating information.