Our own Paul Dwyer spent some of his off-season in the recording studio, and just released the first installment of the complete cello suites by J.S. Bach: ODDS, Suites 1, 3 and 5. If you're interested in having a listen, go here: https://ampl.ink/dpl15. For old-school physical copies (limited pressing only!), please feel free to email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul has gotten attention for his performances of these pieces: James Oestreich of the New York Times calls them "wide-ranging and deeply expressive" and Allan Kozinn of the Portland Press Herald speaks of "some of the best Bach playing I’ve heard anywhere." Fun fact: this album already hit #2 in the classical album charts in Mexico!
View From The Pit: How does it feel to release a solo album?
Paul Dwyer: It's pretty cool. I'm so grateful to all the guys at the record label (Bear Machine records) for making this happen; and to my wife, Adriane, who continues to teach me everything I know about playing Bach. Nowadays, recording a classical album generally is not exactly a financially profitable undertaking, so everyone involved really has to believe in what they're doing and investing in. So this album being released is really a labor of love. In terms of listening to it myself... it can be fun, but because music is such a breathing and constantly changing art form, I kind of get nervous every time I hear it. There are always going to be phrases that maybe now I'd already choose to play differently, or maybe it just depends on what space I'm in, emotional or physical. But once you make your peace with the volatile nature of it all, that's really the beauty of making music!
VFTP: What will you remember about this recording process?
PD: First of all, I got to record on a cello built around 1700 by Giovanni Battista Grancino, one of the most respected instrument makers to this day. It's fun to think that this instrument was about 20 years old when the Bach suites were written. (Many thanks to Christophe Landon in NYC for lending me the cello!) Another unique aspect was the way we recorded: I was very intent on having it feel as much like a live performance as possible and avoid having a lot of edits. So most of the time I actually played a full movement and listened back immediately. Then, with the help of the producer and engineer, we made all of the decisions as we went along and did any editing that needed to be done on the spot. This is fairly unusual for classical music recordings, where generally the editing is completely separate from the recording in the studio. I learned a lot from this process and look forward to developing it further when we record the Evens (suites 2, 4, and 6) in December and June.
VFTP: There are literally hundreds of recordings of the Bach Suites. What's so special about these pieces?
PD: Every cellist lives their whole life with these pieces. There are so many incredible storylines to follow. First of all, you can't go wrong with Bach, and I think we cellists consider ourselves very fortunate that he left us these beautiful pieces. No other works for one instrument are as 'self-sufficient' as these pieces. By that I mean that Bach has the unique ability to write for one instrument and make it sound like several instruments. In that sense, these suites aren't unaccompanied, but rather 'self-accompanied' – this can be fun, but also challenging. On a personal level, everyone has their own history with these suites. I've played them at my grandparents' funerals, at my best friends' and sisters' weddings, in the five different boroughs of NYC all in one day (with a NYTimes critic and photographer in tow...), in candlelit churches, in a Lyric Opera practice room watching architecture tours float by on the Chicago river, and by myself in my living room late at night with a bottle of wine... and now in a recording studio!