Bach Cello Suites

Sometimes great creative ideas flow from constraints. J.S. Bach (1685-1750) wrote six unaccompanied cello suites and six solo sonatas and partitas for violin. This music delivers seemingly limitless musical expression with the simplest and most economic means. Bach’s ability to create complex and inventive counterpoint and harmony using a single solo instrument is amazing. The suites are a collection of Baroque dances which were popular in Bach’s time. Gavottes, bourrées, allemandes and courantes are now long forgotten dance forms, but the music remains timeless.

Here is Yo-Yo Ma playing all six cello suites:

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Bourrées from Suite No. 3

Dr. Suzuki included violin and viola transcriptions of these Bourrées in Book 3. You can read about the history of the bourrée here. Here is Rostropovich playing the original version for cello. Consider how the second bourrée (starting around 1:57) contrasts in character with the first:

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2 Responses to Bach Cello Suites

  1. Wendy December 16, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    For a much faster, gutsier, yet light-hearted approach, listen to Natalia Guttman here:,

    and a lighter, more tempered approach, by Daniel Lee here, starting at .37 seconds:

    but my interpretive heart and spirit is mostly with Anner Bylsma in this period performance, if you can get over the rougher sound of his boisterous bow on the gut strings and generally poorer audio recording quality:

    • Timothy Judd December 16, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Thank you for your recommendations, Wendy. So many excellent and contrasting versions.

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