Spiritual meditation

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)