Canal March

Longing for the past: Britten and Bach

Adolfo Gutiérrez Arenas, cello

Works for cello solo by J. S. Bach and B. Britten

This video presents two surprising examples of longing for the past in the works of the English composer Benjamin Britten while, at the same time, demonstrating the paradigmatic nature of Bach’s Cello Suites. Thus, the natural continuation of the “Prélude” from Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major for Unaccompanied Cello BWV 1007 can be found in the “Barcarola. Lento” from Benjamin Britten’s Cello Suite No. 3 Op. 87. The same intervallic progressions and arpeggiated chords characterize both movements, yet Britten’s remains completely original. Something similar occurs with the “Prélude” from Bach’s Suite No. 5 in C minor for Unaccompanied Cello BWV 1011 and the movement “Grand repose together with the saints (Kontakion). Passacaglia” that concludes Britten’s Op. 87, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. The reflexive and quiet atmosphere, together with the use of the same key and similar musical gestures, unite these two composers spiritually, despite the chronological distance between them.

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