Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for 'Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff

Bach #1
Bach #2
Bach #3
Bach #4
Book Details:

Book Title: Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for 'Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff
Category: Adult non-fiction, 1189 pages
Genre: Biography / Music
Publisher: iTunes
Release date: June 2015
Tour dates: Nov 30 - Dec 18, 2015
Content Rating: G

Book Description:


A Totally Immersive Multimedia Experience

Richly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its Legacy

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd

Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby

Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites

From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.

Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.

For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his live, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.

In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.

Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cothen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.

Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.

In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.

The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:

• How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.

• The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.

• How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.

• How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.

• The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.

• What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.

Buy the music & ebooks: iTunes

Meet the author:

Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Masters degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.

Connect with the author: Website   ~  Twitter  ~   Facebook

Insight from the author:
The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for Cello and how Bach’s music has therapeutic uses by Steven Hancoff

This is a big question. And “ultimate” is a big word. The more I play the Suites, the more certain I am that the Six Suites for Cello Solo is one piece of music that becomes more majestic, more beautiful, more powerful, and more profound as one journeys from the first notes of the FirstPrelude through the last ones of the Sixth Gigue…. Or even more, that the Suites comprise one half of a complete piece, the first half being the six Violin Sonatas and Partitas.

When I began my project, my only intent was to transcribe and record the suites on guitar. But the more I immersed myself in my project, the more I felt I needed to fathom the circumstances of Bach’s life when he composed them. So, I started to read biographies. This led to thinking about who this man was, and what he accomplished in his life. Why did he compose his masterpiece when he did, and for an instrument which, essentially, nobody actually played? …which led to writing, which led to more reading, thinking and writing…

So, here he is – 32 years old. For the first 32 years he knows nothing but the death of three siblings, two parents and three children. He’s an orphan. He is basically tormented by all his bosses and by his position in life. And nobody understands, appreciates or cares about his music. He does, however, fall in love with Maria Barbara with whom he has a, as his genius son Carl Philipp Emmanuel later writes, a blissful marriage. He gets the gig with Prince Leopold in Cöthen. Things are looking up. He’s becoming content. He’s there for three years. He and the prince go away to a fancy spa for a month. He comes home, walks in the door, and as the great Philipp Spitta put is:

He had left her in good health and spirits; now a sudden death had snatched her away in the bloom of life, not yet 36 years old, without any news of it having reached her distant husband … it is easy to guess the feelings that must have tortured his strong, deep nature as he stood by the grave of the wife who had been his companion through the years of his youthful endeavor, and of his first success, only to be snatched from him when fortune was at its height.

All that we get is the official death register: “July 7, 1720 — The wife of Mr. Johann Sebastian Bach, Capellmeister to His Highness the Prince, was buried.”
So, this is the circumstance of his life. I concluded that the violin is the voice of Maria Barbara. The cello is the voice of Johann Sebastian, a voice whose song begins with childish optimism and innocence, but that soon must confront anguish and the despair of agony and grief.

As he metabolizes the circumstances of his life, he is driven deeper and deeper. He is compelled to wonder about and confront the questions about the purpose and meaning of his life, and even of life itself on a grand scale. Through processes of introspection, other-worldly creativity and talent, good-heartedness, spiritual fervor, brutal honesty, and with an ever-expanding musical palette, he creates this musical dialogue with the spirit of Maria Barbara, she who has preceded him to, as he later put it, the Throne of God. He pours his heart out to her. It’s she who from Eternity, explains Ultimate Reality to him. He articulates it to us via the language of the Cello Suites. This is why they are so moving.

In the end, the last suite, Bach is expressing wonder at the fullness of Life itself, and his own spiritual transcendence. What is “transcendence?” A person’s own ego identity is given him for the sake of returning its gifts to its maker, in Bach’s parlance, to God.

What might be the “therapeutic use?” Take in Volume Four –Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo, and do for yourself what Bach was either compelled or able to do for himself.

I have received the 2-disc CD as a gift and have been enjoying it immensely. It has given me pleasure through many miles of travel.


  1. I would love to win another copy to share with my sister's family.
    I really don't want to share mine and risk losing it.

  2. Hancoff's fervor for the Bach suites echoes Casals’ devotion… strains of music dovetail with what is the largest collection of Bach-inspired visual art ever amassed… It is an antique subject elegantly rendered in an impossibly light 21st-century container. – Roxane Assaf, Huffington Post, writing about the iBook

    Dear Laura,

    Thank you.

    Eight years! Eight years ago, I started the process of transcribing Bach’s masterpiece Six Suites for Cello Solo for my acoustic guitar. My only intention was to transcribe and then record them. But the more I worked, the more I felt a need to learn about the man, and especially the circumstances of his life, when he composed the Cello Suites. And the more I discovered, the more questions and ideas arose …until I began to realize that this was not simply a music project, but this was transforming itself into a life’s work. Fulfilling that mission became my purpose.

    And now, the project is done and released. And I want to tell you how much I appreciate your helping to make this work known to the world.

    I have come to feel that the saga I have discovered and articulated in the iBooks is the pre-eminent and most grand and by far the most profoundly serendipitous legend of Western culture. I intend to be touring the country with a multimedia presentation of it, telling the story with slideshow and video – pictures galore -- over the next years. The presentation will be entertaining and enlightening.

    Thanks again…

    Steven Hancoff

  3. but was a little bit shocked at the change in style and musical direction that the second album takes. This is the music from an extremely creative but infinitely diverse style; a CD where Punk meets Country. cello teacher


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