Release date: June 2015
FROM TRAGEDY TO TRANSCENDENCE
ENTER THE CREATIVE WORLD OF J.S. BACH IN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED GUITARIST STEVEN HANCOFF’S GROUNDBREAKING FOUR-VOLUME E-BOOK: BACH, CASALS AND THE SIX SUITES FOR ’CELLO SOLO
A Totally Immersive Multimedia ExperienceRichly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its LegacyBach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd
Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby
Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites
From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.
Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.
For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his live, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.
In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.
Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cothen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.
Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.
In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.
The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:
• How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.
• The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.
• How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.
• How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.
• The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.
• What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.
Excerpt 1 – Volume One: Cöthen: Contentment and Despair
The personal relationship between Sebastian and his Prince must have been extremely convivial, and there is every indication that the Prince treated Sebastian as a revered and cherished friend. His 400-thaler salary (about $28,800) was equal to that of the Court Marshall, the second highest official at the court. Surely Bach and the Prince must have shared plenty of good times playing music together at Leopold’s palace, the keyboard virtuoso accompanying the violinist and gambist, who was playing music composed especially for him!
The very first official piece of business Bach concluded immediately upon his arrival in Cöthen was to present to his new sovereign a secular song, Durchlauchtster Leopold (“Serene Leopold”). And far more meaningful, in 1718, when Maria Barbara gave birth to their only child born in Cöthen, not only did he name the infant Leopold after the Prince, but Prince Leopold accepted the responsibility and honor as godfather to the child. Bach being no stranger to tragedy, baby Leopold was the third Bach child to die before his first birthday.
Always a practical man, Bach made an early decision to move rehearsals to his own home so that he could augment his salary by collecting an extra stipend — 12 thalers per year (about $864) — for rental of rehearsal space.
And the terms of his employment prove the high estimation in which the “Prince held him, for it was dated, and the salary paid, from August 1, 1717, “hough Bach cannot have entered his service before the end of November. This, with a few other meager notices, is all that is known to us concerning his official position in Cöthen. Time has effaced or overgrown almost every trace of his labours, as the grass has overgrown the castle-yard which the master must have so often crossed; and his name has died out among the people of the place almost as completely as the sounds with which he once roused the echoes of the now empty and
deserted halls. [Bib. 3]
As for Bach’s creative output in Cöthen:
… the accounts of the bookbinders who bound the parts copied from Bach’s scores attest the new conductor’s frenzy of productivity…. A great part of Bach’s output in these years is lost; but what has been preserved works like the suites for orchestra and the Brandenburg Concertos [and I must include these “wondrous Cello Suites] reflect the exuberance of an artist discovering new means of expression, and the peace of mind of the composer who had found real understanding and appreciation in his new patron. [Bib. 8]
Meet Steve Hancoff
Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Masters degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.
Thanks so much to iRead Book Tours for organizing this great tour. Don’t forget to visit the other stops on this tour. Click HERE to view the full tour schedule and see the list of participating blogs.