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Yo-Yo Ma

Nature at Play - Bach's Cello Suite No. 1

Sony Classical
Release Date: October 20, 2023

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Bach Cello Suite No. 1 (Live from the Great Smoky Mountains)
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1 Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 - Prelude  
2 Allemande  
3 Courante  
4 Sarabande  
5 Minuet  
6 Gigue  
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J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello have been a touchstone and a source of inspiration for YO-YO MA since he learned the first notes of Suite No. 1 at age four. Today, Sony Classical announces that the cellist’s 1983 recording of the suites – his very first – will be released as a new, three-LP collector’s edition. Available worldwide on October 20 and for preorder now, J.S. Bach: 6 Suites for Unaccompanied Cello – The 1983 Sessions celebrates the 40th anniversary of the original recordings with three newly-pressed picture discs enclosed in a tri-fold jacket featuring exclusive, never-before-seen photos from the original recording session as well as an essay by its producer, Richard Einhorn.

Today, Sony Classical also releases Nature at Play: Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, a digital EP that exemplifies Ma’s ongoing exploration of Bach’s music and its contemporary relevance – listen here. Featuring Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 recorded live in the foothills of The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee as part of Ma’s ongoing “Our Common Nature” initiative, Nature at Play asks us to consider the ways that culture can connect us to the natural world and to each other in pursuit of a common future. Ma has pledged to donate his earnings from the release to EarthPercent, a charity that helps artists and the music industry support the most impactful organizations currently addressing the global climate emergency. Accompanying the EP is a video of the live recording, featuring Ma’s performance of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in its entirety – watch here.

J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, composed between 1717 and 1723, have been at the pinnacle of the solo cello repertoire ever since Pablo Casals rediscovered and began performing them, well over a century ago. Across three impeccable recordings released by Sony Classical and dozens of live performances around the world, the suites have become a kind of artistic signature for Ma, who won the first of his 19 GRAMMY® Awards for the 1983 recording. Though Ma has recorded the suites twice more, at pivotal moments in his career, it was this 1983 recording that confirmed to the world the singular breadth, depth, and promise of his artistry.

“Ma, of course, has his own long history with the suites,” the Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed wrote when the cellist did “the impossible” by playing all six suites in one evening before a hushed audience of almost 17,000 at the Hollywood Bowl in 2017. He recalled the revelation of Ma’s 1983 recording as “fresh, vibrant, immaculately played.”

In his liner note for this new edition, producer Richard Einhorn wrote, “Listening to the Suites now, I fell in love with Yo-Yo Ma’s interpretations all over again. The first word I wrote down for this essay was ‘exuberance,’ an exuberance in abundant evidence right from the start … Yo-Yo would go on to re-record the Bach Suites in both audio and video; they are all equally remarkable achievements. But naturally, this version remains my favorite: I hear so much of my long-ago friend’s ebullient personality in these marvelous interpretations of some of the greatest music ever written.”

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