Maya Beiser – InfInIte Bach: J.S. Bach’s Six Cello Suites (Islandia Music Records)
“I'll never forget. I think I was 10. My father said, ‘Maya, you have to decide: It's Carnegie Hall or Wimbledon,’” cellist Maya Beiser says, “And I remember telling him, ‘I don't think it's going to be Wimbledon, so why don't we do Carnegie Hall?’”
Beiser did not disappoint her father. She has performed at Carnegie Hall many times over the years. She admits her father wasn’t all that keen on the crazy contemporary music for which she’s best known. However, he would have loved her latest recording, which is why she dedicated it to him. It’s called Infinite Bach,’ and it features the composer’s famous cello suites.
“The earliest musical memory that I have is of Bach, specifically the Bach cello suites,” she says. “I grew up in the northern part of Israel, in the Galilee, at a time where there was constant threat of war. And we spent actually a lot of time in shelters during my early childhood. I grew up in a commune. It was called a kibbutz.
“And my father would always just listen to music. He bought this old recording of Pablo Casals performing the cello suites, and that is the earliest memory of my childhood, is the pleasure of just listening to that music in my parents’ little house. It was the sense of safety and the connection that music always had for love.
“I never thought I was going to record the Bach suites, because I always felt that there were enough recordings out there. There were wonderful cellists who have already done that, and I felt that I had a different mission. I'm 60 now. So it was kind of a big, momentous moment. For years, I had to juggle being a mother and a partner and all these things, and then the pandemic. During that time, my partner and I found this house in the Berkshires. We just fell in love with that place because it was inspiring. It had this separate converted barn; it just had the most incredible acoustics.
“The first day I was there, I just took my cello and I sat in the middle of this empty space and just started to play the Bach suites. I all of a sudden realized that this is what I want to do for the next year. I imagined the cello as this sort of giant organ that takes over, and I wanted to create all these different reverbs and delays, but without any artificial electronics. I wanted everything to be acoustic.”
You say in your liner notes that some believe the suites bear a whisper of Bach’s wife. Why did you include this?
“All my teachers were men; all my mentors were men. And they always told me, you need to listen to Pablo Casals and Rostropovich and Pierre Fournier. I can give you the list. They were all older men. There was no model of how a woman would think of this music.
“There are people who claim that Anna Magdalena, Bach’s wife, was actually the one who wrote the suites. And whether it’s true or not, the idea intrigued me. So I just liked to think about it as if I'm presenting a feminine Bach.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Maya Beiser – Infinite Bach: J.S. Bach’s Six Cello Suites (Islandia Music Records)
Maya Beiser – Infinite Bach: J.S. Bach’s Six Cello Suites (Amazon)
Maya Beiser (official site)
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