All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Cello Suite No. 1 in G major

BWV 1007 performed by Lucia Swarts
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"It's very temperamental. Very emotional. On the other hand it's very transparent and perhaps courtly."

"There is lots of room for doubt because she tended to be slovenly." - Lucia Swarts on the Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript in which these suites have been handed down.

Without having seen it, Lucia Swarts bought her cello, a Pieter Rombouts from 1705. She tells about the search for the perfect sound of her 'fat lady'.

Apparent inconsistency

The six cello suites have been handed down in a beautiful manuscript by Bach's wife Anna Magdalena, which raises many questions.

Bach’s first cello suite became his most famous one. The cellist begins the well-known, comforting prelude in a gentle, radiant G major. The first bars are dominated by the single G, D and A strings, resulting in great resonance. This most friendly of suites is suitable for beginners and amateurs, even though it presents challenges to professionals as well. For instance, do you build up the climax leading to the end of the prelude tempestuously or with an even flow? And how should the bowing be done? The Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript in which these suites have been handed down notates the slurs above and below the notes very freely and with apparent inconsistency. Is this a question of sloppiness, or did the composer actually want the maximum variation in the note groupings?
The pattern of the suite is the one largely followed in the subsequent suites: a free prelude, followed by a fast Allemande and Courante, a contemplative Sarabande, a Minuet that makes an excursion into a minor key, and a speedy closing Gigue.

Six Cello Suites
The Six Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach are part of the Old Testament of cello literature. Every cellist who looks at the music senses immediately how naturally the notes are arranged around the strings of the instrument. Yet there are many questions and discussions about these ‘Suites a Violoncello Solo senza Basso’. Did Bach really write the music for cello, or for cello alone? When did he write this music – at the court of Cöthen or earlier? Even the authorship is called into question sometimes, although claims that Anna Magdalena Bach (who notated the only surviving manuscript) could be the author herself cannot be taken very seriously. The suites take a route from simplicity to increasing virtuosity: from the usually open strings of the first three suites, via the more complex key of E-flat major of the enigmatic Suite no. 4 to the dark Suite no. 5, which requires the cellist to tune the highest string one tone lower. Suite no. 6 is the most unusual, as it requires a five-stringed instrument – probably the viola pomposa, or otherwise the cello piccolo.


Suite No. 1 in G major

chamber music (solo work)

Six Cello Suites

between 1717 and 1723


Cast & Crew

release date 28 November 2014
recording date 30 June 2014
Location Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Cellist Lucia Swarts
Cello Pieter Rombouts, 1710
Producer Frank van der Weij
Film director Margien Rogaar
Director of photography Sal Kroonenberg
GAFFER Nicholas Burrough
Grip Antoine Petiet
FILM EDITOR Michiel Boesveldt
Make up and hair Trudy Buren
BEST BOYS Alban Riphagen, Sam Du Pon
MUSIC EDIT AND MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
Colorist Rachel Stone
Extras Luciana Cueto, Thomas Fleischmann, Ludian Schaling, Gill Sexauer, Ton in ‘t Veld, Jetske Wiegers
interviews Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Mark Colly, Henk Hermanns, Janina Bleekemolen, Jasper Verkaart, Rijksmuseum

Vocal Texts




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