PREVIEW ‌ "Bach Cello Suites," Natalia Khoma 

Bach in Charleston: Johannes' timeless tunes arrive via the Ukraine

All of the wankery, posing, and occasional technical prowess that somehow still passes for "shredding" these days must bow in solemn reverence to the genius of Bach. This is the real deal. Raw, naked emotion distilled to a mathematically perfect point and given flight in a way that relies as much on the performer's interpretation as it does the notes on the page.

Bach's Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello may very well be the greatest example of solo cello music. In Natalia Khoma, Piccolo-Spoletians will hear these absolute gems performed by a musician on the fast track to being acclaimed one of the world's greatest living cellists. Since her first public performance on television at age 10, Khoma has consistently won audiences with a rare mix of technical precision, warmth of tone, precise structure, and a drive that transcends both native talent and the skill of a highly practised musician.

Born in Ukraine, Khoma won the All-Ukrainian competition in 1981. Other awards include the 1985 Budapest Pablo Casals Competition, Marneukirchen in 1987, and First Prize at the 1990 Belgrade International Cello Competition. Also in 1990, she became the first and only Ukrainian cellist to win Moscow's Tchaikovsky International Competition. The list of orchestras and chamber ensembles she has performed with as a soloist reads like a record aficionado's dream come true; from the Berlin Radio Orchestra to the Chamber Ensemble of the New York City Symphony Orchestra, all are mainstays of any deep classical collection. And Charleston gets to claim her, seeing as she's a professor of cello at the College of Charleston.

Khoma will perform some of Bach's most compelling and emotionally intense works. They were likely composed while Bach served as the Kapellmeister in Cöthen, although no precise date can be set and no copy of the suites in Bach's hand survive. The suites present listeners and musicians alike a wide range of both technical challenges and emotional content highlighted by the intense intimacy of a solo setting. Both the challenges and emotional variety increase as one progresses through the suites, while (Bach being Bach...) the symmetrical design provides balance and coherence.

Although the suites are now recognized as one of the ultimate expressions of solo cello music, this was not always the case. From Bach's time until the early 1900s, they were viewed, if at all, as study pieces. After Pablo Casals, the giant of early 20th century cello, found an edition languishing in a thrift shop, he began performing them. Nearly 30 years later, he agreed to record these "study pieces." Since the time of that recording (which is still available) the suites have become a dearly loved measure of any cellist. And Natalia Khoma is not just any cellist.

"Bach Cello Suites," Natalia Khoma • Piccolo Spoleto's Early Music Series • $12 • (1 hour) • May 29 at 3 p.m. (Suites 1-3) and June 8 at 3 p.m. (Suites 4-6) • First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, 53 Meeting St. • 554-6060


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