The Kennedy Center

Sarabande from the 6th Cello Suite

About the Work

J.S. Bach Composer: J.S. Bach
© Richard E. Rodda

In 1713, the frugal Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia dismissed his household musical establishment in Berlin. The young, cultured Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen took the opportunity to engage some of the finest of Friedrich's musicians, and provided them with excellent instruments and established a library for their regular court performances. In December 1717, Leopold hired Johann Sebastian Bach, then organist and Kapellmeister at Weimar, as his director of music. Inspired by the high quality of the musicians in his charge and by the Prince's praise of his creative work, Bach produced much of his greatest instrumental music during the six years of his tenure at Cöthen, including the Brandenburg Concertos , Suites for Orchestra, Violin Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier , many chamber and keyboard compositions, and the works for unaccompanied violin and cello. The six Suites for Solo Cello were apparently written for either Christian Ferdinand Abel (whose son Carl Friedrich became the partner of Sebastian Bach's son Johann Christian in an important London concert venture in the 1760s) or Christian Bernhard Linigke, both master cellists in the Cöthen court orchestra. The Sarabande from the Suite No. 6 in D major moves through long arches of carefully embellished melody.