Cello Suite No. 3
Professor Alexander Chaushian and student Alex Olmedo work together on the Cello suite No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach, the bourrée and gigue.
Firstly, Olmedo is instructed to find the two voices of the piece, one happy and one sad, and to differentiate them. Moreover, the student must work on his articulation and clarity, since the cello suite is notoriously difficult. Olmedo is encouraged to practice slowly at first to perfect his technique, so that he can then keep up with the tempo and energy of the work. Chaushian advises his student to give his sound more presence, and to construct the beginning well to set up the right tone.
It is also essential to avoid rushing and add some humor and engage with the character of the piece.
Articulation and the clarity of the sound.
Avoid rushing and keeping up the pace and energy.
Adding some humor in the interpretation.
Putting more presence in the sound.
Bach’s six cello suites, composed during his time as Kapellmeister in Cöthen between 1717-23, are some of the greatest and most challenging works for solo cello ever written. Like its counterparts, the third suite remains in a single key throughout six dance movements. Because it is in the key of C major, it has a naturally cheerful quality and resonance, and open strings and double stops are frequently incorporated. Bach strategically hints at the underlying harmonies with the use of pedal notes and broken chords. The prelude is in A-B-A-C form, alternating between scalar and chordal passages. The allemande in this suite is unique because it deviates from standard Baroque practice by using three sixteenth notes as an upbeat instead of one. Somehow, the courante maintains an elegance throughout extended virtuosic passages. The emotional core of the piece lies in the sarabande, which is both soulful and dignified. The first bourrée is spirited yet simple, while the second is slightly slower and more lyrical. Full of leaps, the lively final gigue brings the suite to an animated conclusion.
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 Chaushian’s 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.