Excerpt from programme notes for CD "Bach Cello Suites"


  The Cello Suites 

Bach CD 3

I might as well nail my colours to the mast and confess that I do not subscribe to the view that there is a definitively authentic style of performing Bach. What is considered authentic by one generation is dismissed by the next. The revered Pablo Casals, who single-handedly rescued the Cello Suites from oblivion, was once informed that his failure to adhere to current wisdom of authentic performance practices constituted a lack of respect for the composer. Casals responded by declaring that to respect the music was above all, to make it live. Mendelssohn revived St. Matthew Passion in 1829 with a full-blown romantic orchestra and every dynamic variation available to it. Brahms, as Music Director of the Vienna Gesellschaft, although more discreet in the use of dynamic effects than some of his contemporaries, discarded the harpsichord as obsolete. Schumann added a piano accompaniment to the Cello Suites and Busoni responded to the famous Chaconne with a monumental work for keyboard exploiting the full potential of the modern piano. But all were passionately involved with the revival of J.S. Bach, hitherto overshadowed by his son Carl Phillip Emanuel and it is arguable whether his music would have lived in any conventional meaning of the term without their advocacy.

THE INDEPENDENT

Gazette                                                                                                                                          Tuesday 7 March 1995



"To appreciate fully a great musician, you have to be a damn fine one yourself", was Ezra's characteristically succinct response to my bemusement at someone's failure to respect the genius of an acknowledged Master. “Otherwise, you don’t understand what it is you are respecting”, he went on.  From Nikisch to Strauss to Reiner to Rachlin, Ezra was a descendent of the most remarkable conducting tradition the world has ever witnessed.  "Damn fine musicians" such as Josef Hofmann, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leopold Godowsky, Joseph Lhevinne, Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowsky, Fritz Reiner and George Szell paved the way for Rachlin's meteoric rise to fame both as a legendary pianist and as a great conductor.

Ezra 1

Born in Hollywood, Ezra Rachlin was five years old when some of his remarkable gifts were displayed in his first full length piano recital.  In the early 1920s America's venerable musical institutions had not yet been invented and Europe was considered the place for a wunderkind to receive proper training. The Rachlins moved to Germany where in the thriving musical centre of Berlin, Ezra was soon to make his mark.  Salon concerts were still very much in vogue, and at the house of the Abegg family, for whom Schumann had written his famous variations, Ezra often shared a platform with the eighteen year old Vladimir Horowitz. Whilst in Germany, his academic education had not suffered.  He had become totally bilingual, absorbing the entire output of Gœthe, Schiller, Lessing, Kleist, Mann and Zueckmayer.  He had also become street-wise and learned to defend himself against the local bullies in a hostile anti-Semitic environment.

Of the many distinguished musicians, whose advice I was privileged to receive in the early days of my cellistic career, it was Pierre Fournier's unstinting encouragement and advice, which made a profound impression upon me.

Pierre Fournier

Aristocratic in bearing, elegant and charming, Pierre Fournier the artist was Pierre Fournier the man.  His music-making was the essence of nobility and elegance.  As with Fritz Kreisler whom he revered, his playing evinced an eloquent expressiveness in a style that was unexaggerated and always within the margins of good taste.  Ideologically and temperamentally opposed to the market forces governing today's musical promotion, he belonged to a generation which believed that art should speak for itself.

He used to speak of his early musical influences.  There were informal musical evenings in Neuilly with Alfred Cortot, occasionally joined by Jacques Thibaud (whom he regarded as very talented and very lazy!), and a stimulating association with Arthur Schnabel and Joseph Szigetti led to many vigorous musical arguments, in which apparently Szigetti's view invariably prevailed.

TV interview

Interview

TV interview of Richard Markson by Fabrizio Ferrari

Editions

Cello Music Editions

A collection of music scores edited by Richard Markson