Teacher Talk: your string teaching questions answered by our panel of experts
How early can the Bach Cello Suites be introduced to cello students?
Ruth Malden, Surrey, UK
Bonnie Hampton: The Bach Suites are cellists’ own special music, and if they provide a very early musical experience that continues throughout cello students’ lives, that is fine with me. My own experience of the suites came early, listening to the Casals recordings before I ever played them myself. I was allowed to start the First Suite within my initial year of study and since then they have been a continuing source of pleasure and discovery, as well as the basis of my cello technique. After all, they are made up of scales and arpeggios; but what life, inventiveness and energy they contain. Yes, they mostly involve the lower positions, but if we are playing well and in tune in the lower positions and with good rhythm, articulation and musical phrasing, aren’t we fulfilling the most important roles of a cellist?
Bonnie Hampton is on the faculty at Juilliard School, teaching cello in both the college and pre-college divisions
Our Teacher Talk series was first published in The Strad in January 2011. Subscribe to The Strad and get the best in teaching tips every month, from Simon Fischer’s long-running Basics column to advice from top string players in Masterclass. Or click here to find out about our digital edition.