Cellist Thomas Demenga on the illuminating power of ornamentation in Bach’s Cello Suites

Thomas Demenga

Photo Eduard Rieben

For the eleventh day in our series of quotes for the festive season from The Strad archive, cellist Thomas Demenga shares his approach to playing repeats and ornamentation in the Cello Suites

‘Some musicians have a difficult time with all the repeats in a suite’s dance movements. I love them, because whenever I play through a movement the second time, I feel as though I’m walking through a room that I have seen before in a rather weak light. This time, though, I have a torch and I’m able to discover many more details in the movement’s structure that I didn’t notice at first. I look up to the ceiling and suddenly notice the stucco. I can perceive the size of the room with more accuracy. I can walk a little faster or feel more relaxed, and maybe even stop in one spot, just to get a closer look at something – this time I feel more at home.

‘One should handle any use of ornaments with care. Cellist Anner Bylsma once told me he could not ‘add anything that would make this music better’, so he would rather let it be. There is certainly some truth in this, but it doesn’t mean that ornaments should never be ventured.’

To read the full interview with Thomas Demenga published in The Strad October 2012 issue, click here to log-in or subscribe. Download the issue on desktop computer or through The Strad App.

Read: Stefan-Peter Greiner on the art of sound-adjustment