“We need Bach’s music, regardless of the instrument” – Tabea Zimmermann
Ten years after her acclaimed album “Solo” with the first two cello suites of Johann Sebastian Bach, violist Tabea Zimmermann now sets her sights on Suites Nos. 3 and 4. She pairs them with excerpts from György Kurtág’s cycle “Games, Signs & Messages”, selecting six numbers to form her own personal homage to Bach.
For what kind of instruments did Bach write his solo suites BWV 1007-1012? How did they sound, what did they look like? This subject still gives rise to much speculation. Johann Peter Kellner’s manuscript copy from the early 1700s is one of the two main sources for the six solo suites, and it indicates a viola basso. The violoncello had not yet become standardized in terms of size, construction, and playing technique; Bach probably had instruments in mind such as the violoncello piccolo or the viola da spalla. The latter was a viola attached in front of the body by a strap: Bach performed the viola da spalla in public himself – possibly these suites. Tabea Zimmermann has not switched her musical hardware for this recording: here she plays her 1980 Vatelot viola with a classical bow.
In 2009, the album “Solo” (MYR003, also available at NativeDSD) launched Tabea Zimmermann’s collaboration with the myrios classics label. The release was crowned with a multitude of international awards: Gramophone Editor’s Choice, “Stern des Monats” in Fono Forum, 4f in Télérama and 5 Stars in the Italian magazine Musica; moreover, in response to that groundbreaking recording, the jury of the coveted German ECHO Klassik Prize selected Tabea Zimmermann as “2010 Instrumentalist of the Year”.
“The original Solo I album from 2009 was the start of our collaboration and turned out being one of the most successful viola albums. 10 years after this album, Tabea and I met in the studio again (this time in the Jesus Christus Kirche Berlin) to record two more Bach cello suites (on viola of course), interwoven this time by a „suite“ of 6 pieces from the cycle „Signs, Games & Messages“ by György Kurtág, including the piece Kurtág dedicated to Tabea (…eine Blume für Tabea…/ a flower for Tabea).”
— Stephan Cahen, Producer & Recording Engineer
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 00:52:35
Merging Technologies, HAPI
Merging Technologies, Pyramix
Sonodore RCM402, Sennheiser MKH800
|Original Recording Format|
Jesus-Christus-Kirche Berlin, Germany (2018)
|Recording Type & Bit Rate|
|Release Date||October 9, 2020|
While separated by 10 years, these two recordings together offer all four of Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello arranged for viola, superbly performed by Tabea Zimmermann. In each album, the Bach Suites are separated by complementary works by contemporary composers. In Solo 1, Zimmermann has chosen the three Suites for Solo Viola by Max Reger. In Solo II, she gives us six pieces for viola from Signs, Games and Messages by György Kurtág. Both choices work very well contrasting, but not clashing, with the Bach Suites.
The Kurtág works I found intriguing, as much for their inherent beauty as for their intimacy. Among the pieces is “…eine Blume für Tabea…” (“A Flower for Tabea”), dedicated by Kurtág to Zimmermann after the untimely death of her husband. “There seems to be no beginning and no end in this piece. It requires the most delicate tones—mere suggestions, and then it’s already over, as if Kurtág had wanted to set the fleeting passage of time to music.” A friend of mine describes this work as “a haunting minute of two voices talking through time.” And it does play softly, so turn up the volume and do not miss this piece. It is treasurable.
Enjoy for the Reger and Kurtág works; they are well worth the journey. Treasure the album for her Bach. Altogether, a very nice album.
Ten years after her acclaimed solo album with J.S. Bach’s first two Cello Suites, violist Tabea Zimmermann performs Suites Nos. 3 and 4, plus extracts from Gyorgy Kurtag’s cycle “Games, Signs and Messages”.
To interpret these Bach suites, you need a great virtuoso. Tabea’s playing is perfectly fluid and perfectly gives the illusion of a counterpoint or / and a low figure. It is very pleasant to revel in such an interpretation on a viola.
Artistic Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Sound Quality: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It comes as a revelation to hear Bach’s cello suites performed on a viola by this great German musician, Tabea Zimmermann. Here they have a dynamism never achieved on the cello, and her playing has a wonderful eagerness and persuasiveness.
But the six works by the enigmatic Gyorgy Kurtag – who devotedly plays Bach on the piano – are no less of a revelation: with the shortest lasting just 45 seconds and three just over one minute, Their grouping (by Zimmerman) into a suite to echo Bach’s six-movement works creates a brand-new sound-world. With no bar-lines and almost no speed markings, they present big challenges: at one point, says the violist, the left hand must be so tense that it hurts. Tersely suggestive, and at times emotionally explosive, these little pieces open intriguing new landscapes.
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