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Juliana Soltis: Bach Cello Suites

Flatiron, New York

Sun, January 21, 2024 5:00 PM, EST

Pay the musicians
Drinking policy
Don't bring your own drinks
Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks provided
Age limit
All guests must be 21
Wheelchair access
Wheelchair Accessible

This is a groupmuse

A live concert in a living room, backyard, or another intimate space. They're casual and friendly, hosted by community members.


Jonathan D. Superhost

Doors & Pre-Reception 5 PM
Performance 6 PM
Post-Reception 7 PM

Juliana Soltis: Bach Cello Suites

Gotham Arts in collaboration with Groupmuse is delighted to present an intimate private solo recital by cellist Juliana Soltis featuring Bach's last two suites for unaccompanied cello.

Wine will be served.


BACH Cello Suite No. 5 in c minor, BWV 1011

BACH Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012

About the Artist

Watch Juliana perform the Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1

About Juliana Soltis

Raised amidst the diverse musical traditions of southern Appalachia, cellist Juliana Soltis inspires audiences the world over with “exquisite, heart-rending” (Early Music America) performances that are redefining classical music. A “true virtuoso” (Classical Music), Juliana delights in connecting listeners with the forgotten stories of classical music.

Hailed as one of the most fearlessly innovative and creative cellists of her generation for her “serious musicianship and inquiring mind” (Gramophone), Ms. Soltis has headlined the BRQ Vantaa (Finland) Fringe Series for Emerging Artists, appeared at the Boston Early Music Festival, and been featured on the Millennium Stage Series at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

A passionate recording artist, Juliana’s 2017 debut, Entrez, le Diable! (Acis), garnered both international attention and critical acclaim – “[a] fierce display of impassioned rhetoric” (Gramophone) – with Classical Music’s Colin Clarke proclaiming it “beyond criticism” and “a stunning release.” Her eagerly-anticipated sophomore offering, Going Off Script (King Street Records, 2019) met with similar praise for upending the interpretation of one of classical music’s most revered composers with an unprecedented exploration of the long-lost art of spontaneous improvisation in Bach’s beloved Cello Suites: “You’ve never heard Bach played this way before” declared Steve Staruch (Classical Minnesota Public Radio), while Japan’s Yomiuri Shinbun marveled that “never did one think the heart could be so moved by a cello alone.”

Ever drawn to the fringes of her art form, in 2024 Ms. Soltis will release her third studio album, American Woman: a celebration of the secret history of America’s “other” composers featuring works for cello and piano by Amy Beach, Helen C. Crane, Mary Howe, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Dorothy Rudd-Moore. All highly-acclaimed during their individual lifetimes, these women and their music nevertheless fell into obscurity following their deaths; said Juliana of her upcoming release, “I feel that I have been preparing all my life to play this music. These women deserve their place in our shared musical history, and I am both honored and humbled to tell their stories.”

A devoted performer-scholar. Juliana holds degrees from the New England Conservatory, Ball State University, The Longy School of Music, and Oberlin Conservatory; her primary studies having been conducted under the tutelage of Yeesun Kim, Richard Aaron, Phoebe Carrai, and Catharina Meints Caldwell.

When not touring, recording, or climbing the library stacks researching her next project, Juliana can be found at home in historic Church Hill, Richmond, VA, where she enjoys gardening (with some success), hunting for vintage vinyl, and binge-watching bad tv with her two rescue greyhounds, Rain and Ceci.

What's the music?

Juliana Soltis Baroque Cello

Suite No. 5 in c minor, BWV 1011 Johann Sebastian Bach
Gavottes 1 & 2

Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012
Gavottes 1 & 2

The cello suites of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) have been beloved for generations – but what if the music we love so much was incomplete?

Like other composers of the Baroque period, Bach saw notes printed or written on a page not as music, but rather as a sort of recipe for music: a set of instructions that would ultimately result in the creation of music when, in the moment of performance, the player would finally complete the process of composition by adding their personal touch to those notes on the page via improvisation. Without these small additions, or "ornaments," Bach's music is unfinished: eternally waiting to be transformed into the individual, never-to-be-repeated experience he had intended.

Tonight's performance highlights, not only this long-lost tradition of spontaneous improvisation, but also two of Bach's less-performed gems: the fifth and sixth suites for solo cello. Though easily two of Bach's most impressive and expressive works, these suites are a relative rarity in concert due to the special equipment needs they present to the performer.

The fifth suite, in c minor, calls specifically for the use of the "scordatura" or "mis-tuned" cello, on which the top string, usually pitched to the note "A," has been tuned down a full step to the pitch of "G." While this archaic tuning was once common in parts of Italy during the 17th century, it is no longer in use today, meaning that concerts featuring this suite require either a vigorous re-tuning of the cello mid-performance, or the presentation of an altered version of Bach's music to accommodate modern tuning.

The score of the sixth suite, meanwhile, includes a tiny indication in the upper left-hand corner of the page: "une violoncelle à cinq cordes," meaning "a cello with five strings." Though highly uncommon today, the five-string cello tuned C-G-D-A-E was not only prevalent during Bach's time – it also existed in more than one form! (The violoncello da spala, for example, was a small, five-string cello that could be slung about the body, similar to an electric guitar, and then hauled-up on to the shoulder to be played like a violin! Needless to say, this version of the cello did NOT feature the modern instrument's characteristic metal spike, or endpin.) Few performers today are fortunate enough to have a five-stringed instrument on which to play Bach's final suite; as such, most performances are given on standard four-string cellos, necessitating the omission of a great number of notes to accommodate the absence of that top E string. Tonight's performance, though, will be given on a five-string violoncello piccolo: an instrument which I believe allows all of the color and variety of Bach's composition to truly shine.


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