Musical appreciation

Bach’s Cello Suites represent a spiritual meditation — from the Nativity to the Resurrection

‘One player on four strings, with a bow.’ That’s what Bach’s six Cello Suites boil down to, says Steven Isserlis. It sounds simple enough, until you add more than 100 editions and 200 recordings into the equation, not to mention countless books, chapters and articles all wrestling with a work Isserlis calls ‘a Bible’ for cellists. And this tussle isn’t just a lofty question of meaning or interpretation either: we’re still arguing about the actual notes. Suddenly the numbers no longer add up. The cellist Isserlis released his award-winning account of the Cello Suites in 2007. That Hyperion disc (still quietly revelatory, whatever his self-deprecating, occasionally rueful footnotes might suggest)

Roger Scruton’s swan song: salvation through Parsifal

This is Roger Scruton’s final book. Parsifal was Wagner’s final opera. Both works are intended to be taken as Last Words: testaments of belief at the end of a long spiritual journey. In the introduction, Scruton identifies the enduring problem in his life, and ours, as: ‘How to live in right relation with others, even if there is no God.’ He gives us his answer: Whether or not there is a God, there is this hallowed path towards a kind of salvation, the path that Wagner described as ‘godliness’, the path taken by Parsifal, and it is a path open to us all. Scruton sees Parsifal as a tale of