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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB’s Helen Callus to Wrap Up ‘Bach Project’

She'll perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara

Violist Helen Callus will complete her
Violist Helen Callus will complete her “Bach Project” on Friday at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara.

The mesmerizing and prodigiously talented UCSB faculty violist Helen Callus will complete her exploration of the six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach — an enterprise she has dubbed “The Bach Project” — at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 3, in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, 1535 Santa Barbara St., with performances of the Suite No. 5 in C-Minor and the Suite No. 6 in G-Major. The event is free.

In addition to Callus, on hand will be UCSB graduate students — both, not coincidentally, violists — Linda Shaver-Gleason and Jacob Adams. They will elucidate each of the works performed.

Without resorting to the portentous and dogmatic proclamations of those for whom Bach is the first and last word of musical composition, I have to admit that the six Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007-1012 are something special in the literature for solo instruments, especially stringed instruments. (I have never denied Bach’s towering genius, only the claims for his divinity made on his behalf by the more fanatical wing of his fan club.)

It’s typical of early music history that not only can scholars not say for sure when and where the suites were composed, but they have yet to determine the order in which they were written. The best guess, so far, is that Bach wrote during the period 1717–23, when he was a Kapellmeister in Cöthen. So popular have the suites proven — for their melodic grandeur, their intimacy, their mystery, their intellectual perfection — that they have over the years been transcribed for violin, viola, double bass, viola da gamba, mandolin, piano, marimba, classical guitar, recorder, french horn, saxophone, bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba and ukulele.violin, double bass, viola da gamba, mandolin, piano, marimba, classical guitar, recorder, french horn, saxophone, bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, ukulele and, of course, viola.

They have an edge of melancholy, even at their liveliest, that makes them unforgettable.

For more information about UCSB Music Department events, click here or call 805.893.7001.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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