I had the good fortune to attend Butler Cello Day this past Saturday and heard Adriana Contino give a masterclass on performing the Bach cello suites. These six suites occupy an incredibly special place in the hearts and souls of cellists. I personally have collected over 40 recordings of these suites and enjoy hearing great cellists tackle the musical and technical challenges they pose. However, when pieces are so studied and revered, there is a danger of them ending up on a pedestal too high to reach. Most cellists I know are reticent to perform the suites, feeling that it opens them up to criticism from their peers.
So what do we do? Perhaps the quote, “Music is about sharing, not proving” should be our guide. We should also be slow to criticize a performance as “wrong”. In the end, playing this beautiful music should fill us with joy, not fear.