In 2014, the acclaimed Boston-based cellist and gambist Shirley Hunt embarked on a career-defining project: to record the complete Bach Cello Suites and Viola da Gamba Sonatas on period instruments. On October 23, 2017, J.S. Bach Suites and Sonatas, Vol. 2, the second of three discs in this ambitious compendium, was released on the independent label Letterbox Arts. When Hunt releases the final installment in 2018, she will become the first American, as well as the first woman, to record these complete Suites and Sonatas on period instruments.
Hunt’s recording project, while musically ambitious and potentially historic, has its roots in a deeply personal family legacy around Bach. The three-part compendium is dedicated to the memory of Hunt’s sister, the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. “This recording project is a way to express my gratitude for my sister’s life, and my admiration for her legacy as an interpreter of baroque music, especially Bach,” Hunt says. “I wanted to find a way to contribute to, and continue, the beauty she left behind in her incredible recordings.”
Featuring harpsichordist Ian Pritchard on tracks 7-10, this installment of the compendium includes Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, the Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord in G Major, and Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor. Notably, the fifth suite is the only one in which Bach employed scordatura—the intentional de-tuning of the A string down to G—and offers a special showcase of Hunt’s remarkable instrument, a violoncello made in 1775 by William Forster Sr.
The final installment of Hunt’s recording trilogy will be released in 2019. On this final recording, Hunt will perform Bach’s Suite No. 6 on a rare 5-string cello, made in 1720, from the musical instrument collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The final disc will also include Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major and the Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord in D Major.
About the Performers
Boston-based baroque cellist and viola da gamba player Shirley Hunt enjoys a vibrant international career as a soloist, chamber musician, and continuo player. Recent season highlights include performances at the Boston Early Music Festival, Madison Early Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Phillips Collection, Strathmore Mansion, National Sawdust, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Sala Nezahualcóyotl in Mexico City. She performs regularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with acclaimed Renaissance ensemble Sonnambula, and appears often as a soloist with Boston’s finest early music ensembles, including the Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, and Emmanuel Music. In 2018, she will give debut performances at Caramoor, the Morgan Library, and the Westerkerk in Amsterdam.
Ian Pritchard is a harpsichordist, organist, and musicologist specializing in early music and historical keyboard practices. He has collaborated with the world’s leading figures in early music as a continuo player, chamber musician, and concerto soloist. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he is a PhD candidate in musicology, and where he appears frequently with ensembles such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Complete Track Listing:
1-6: Suite for solo cello No. 2 in D minor – J.S. Bach
7-10: Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord No. 1 in G Major – J.S. Bach
11-16: Suite for solo cello No. 5 in C Minor – J.S. Bach
J.S. Bach Suites & Sonatas, Vol. 2 was recorded at The Chapel at West Parish in Andover, MA. The album is available for purchase via Letterbox Arts at www.letterboxarts.com, and is also available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and Spotify. Copies of this recording are also available for purchase in the gift shop at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, CA.