Today I bring you a triple threat which includes not only an author interview with Steven Hancoff, who compiled this four-volume set of books but also a book spotlight and a giveaway. Entitled Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo, Volumes 1-4, described below, delve into the history of Bach’s music, the discovery of Casals’ concertos, plus the six suites transcribed by my guest.
Don’t miss the giveaway immediately following our conversation!
Please join me in welcoming Steven Hancoff!
Born & raised Baltimore, MD.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your education, family life, etc.
BA – Tiny St. Johns College, Annapolis, MD, esteemed for its singular “100 Great Books of the Western World” program based on reading and conversation instead of lectures and tests. By “tiny,” I mean my graduating class was 38 members. I just attended Homecoming. I find myself, as the years pass, more and more connected and grateful that I went there.
Q: Tell us your latest news.
What became my life’s work is now released into the world: 3CD set: From Tragedy to Transcendence – The Six Suites for Cello Solo by J. Sebastian Bach for Acoustic Guitar, and the simultaneous release of the four-volume iBook: Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo.
Q: When and why did you begin writing?
Well, it was almost a kind of accident. I wanted to transcribe and record Bach’s Cello Suites for guitar. Cello is a one-note-at-a-time instrument; a guitar is designed for playing melody, but also harmony, chords, bass lines, etc. I thought that to harmonize the music more deeply and more beautifully, it would serve me to learn about the man and the circumstances of his life when he composed the Suites. I started to read biographies. This led to thinking about him and his life, which led to writing, which led to more reading, thinking and writing.
Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I thought of myself as a musician. I only started describing myself as a writer when I began sending the project out, calling myself a musician AND writer.
Q: What inspired you to write your first book?
The more I delved into the material, the more inspired I became. I have come to feel that the story of Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo is a profound saga, a kind of legend, of Western culture that ought to be brought to light so that many, many people might be inspired by it like I have been.
Q: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t know. A reviewer at Huffington Post called my style “natural, even folksy.” I definitely smiled when I saw that. Whatever the style, the iBook is definitely anecdotal, and not technical. It’s for interested people, whether they play music or not.
Q: How did you come up with the title?
On the one hand, it seems pretty descriptive and straightforward to me. On the other, I have come to believe it describes each person’s existential journey. So, it’s actually both a personal and a universal story.
Q: What are your current projects?
I am creating a concert length, multi-media presentation of the story. The first performances are in Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria at the end of November. I am calling it: From Tragedy to Transcendence –Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo. I notice now that when I tell some people about it, I like to say: “It’s real adult entertainment for real adults!”
Thank you, Steven, for taking the time to answer our questions about your work and this exciting compilation of music and history in your CD set and the four-volume series on Bach, Casals, and the transcribed music for acoustic guitar.
50 – 2-disc CDs “The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo”
(open to USA & Canada)
FROM TRAGEDY TO TRANSCENDENCE
ENTER THE CREATIVE WORLD OF J.S. BACH IN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED GUITARIST STEVEN HANCOFF’S GROUNDBREAKING FOUR-VOLUME E-BOOK: BACH, CASALS AND THE SIX SUITES FOR ’CELLO SOLO
A Totally Immersive Multimedia Experience
Richly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its Legacy
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd
Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby
Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites
From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.
Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.
For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his life, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.
In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.
Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cöthen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.
Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.
In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.
The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:
- How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.
- The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.
- How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.
- How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.
- The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.
- What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.
Buy the music & ebooks: iTunes
More about Steven Hancoff:
Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Master’s degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.
Future Tour Dates:
Check out the rest of this blog tour by following this link.