Cello Suite No. 6
In this masterclass, Alexander Chaushian discusses style, phrasing, and sound production in the Allemande from Bach’s sixth cello suite. He works with the student to constantly feel the pulse and emphasize the first and third beats so the style of the Allemande always comes through. He shows her how to phrase with this pulse in mind so that there is always direction in the music line. He then encourages her to exaggerate this phrasing, so the musical idea she has in her own mind translates to the audience. Chaushian also helps the student produce a sound with substance in the right way. He works with her to release the tightness and tension in her left hand and relax her vibrato; instead, she must focus on controlling and producing the sound from her right hand. This not only helps the student gain freedom in her physicality but also creates a sound that fits appropriately with the music.
Emphasizing the correct beats and phrasing accordingly.
Releasing tension in the left hand and producing sound with the right.
Creating a substantive sound.
Calming the vibrato.
Exaggerating the phrasing.
J.S. Bach composed the six suites for solo cello while working as Kapellmeister in Cöthen between 1717-23. Known for their technical challenges and expressive capability, they have become a staple in the cello repertoire. Each of the six suites follows the same basic format, which includes six Baroque dance movements in a single key. The sixth suite is the longest of the six and is in the key of D Major, which elicits a joyful character. Many believe that it was actually composed for a five-stringed cello or even a shoulder cello. Modern cellists play it on a traditional four-string cello, but run into difficulties managing the extreme range of the piece. They are forced to use high positions to reach all the notes; in fact, the suite is the only suite of the six to use an alto or treble clef.
The six movements are Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gavottes I & II, and Gigue, and are more improvisatory and free in nature than many of the other suites’ movements. The outer movements are characterized by their cheerful qualities and virtuosic leaps, while the unusually soft Allemande captures a more introspective character. The Sarabande is notable for its emotional depth and expressivity as well as its extreme difficulty.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this cello masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Alexander Chaushians feedback and comments.
Winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2002
Regarded as one of the finest cellists, Alexander Chaushian has performed extensively throughout the world as a soloist with orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, The London Mozart Players, The Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, The Boston Pops, and The Armenian Philharmonic. He has given highly acclaimed performances in such venues as London’s Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Wigmore Hall, Sala Verdi Milan, Konzerthaus Vienna, Suntory Hall Japan, and more. He performs regularly in festivals throughout the world and is the Artistic Director of the International Pharos Chamber Music Festival in Cyprus and the Yerevan Music Festival in Armenia.
After studying in Armenia, Alexander Chaushian continued his studies in the UK at the Menuhin School and the Guildhall School, London. He then pursued advanced studies at the Hochschule Berlin, graduating with distinction in 2005. He is a laureate prize winner of many international competitions, including the 12th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and the ARD Competition in Germany. As an alumnus of Young Concert Artists, New York, he toured extensively in the USA.
Among the many distinguished musicians whom he has collaborated with are Yehudi Menuhin, Julia Fischer, Levon Chilingirian, Yuri Bashmet, Diemut Poppen, François-Frédéric Guy, Emmanuel Pahud. His regular chamber music partner is Yevgeny Sudbin.
Johann Sebastian Bach is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in music history. His incredible creative power, technical mastery, and intellect have made a lasting impression not only on classical music but also on many different modern music genres we know today.
Born in 1685 in Eisenach, Germany, Bach was a member of a very well-known family of musicians. At 18-years-old, he began working in Arnstadt where he accompanied hymns at church. His professional career as a musician would follow in Weimar, where he resided from 1708 to 1717. Here, Bach would deepen his theoretical study of composition and write most of his organ works. Moreover, he composed preludes and fugues that would be part of his collection The Well-Tempered Clavier. After building a considerable reputation in Weimar, Bach moved to Köthen to take a new role as Chapel Master. Writing less religious songs and putting more of a focus on chamber music, his compositions from this time would bring Baroque instrumental music to its pinnacle.
From 1723 until his death in 1750, Bach worked in Leipzig. First, as Thomaskantor at the Thomasschule and later as a private tutor and director of the Collegium Musicum. During this time, Bach worked on creating a repertoire of cantatas for church and revised many of his previous compositions. From 1726 onward, his keyboard works were published. His death in 1750 came to mark the end of the Baroque period and the beginning of Classicism. For many years after his passing, Johann Sebastian Bach’s works were buried with him until they resurfaced many years later and celebrated for their musical ingenuity.