The consolation of Bach at the Festival of Chichester

Pure, cathartic, reflective, they are also fantasy and adventure – and for cellist Pavlos Carvalho they have been an essential companion in life and even more so during the pandemic.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 9:05 am
Pavlos Carvalho

Pavlos is delighted to be returning to the Festival of Chichester once again this year to offer a concert of Bach Cello Suites. His solo recital will be in St Paul’s Church and Parish Centre on July 5 at 1pm.

As Pavlos says, the beauty and the perpetual sense of discovery that these solo cello suites bring with every performance have never ceased to capture the imagination of performers and listeners alike throughout the 300 years since they were composed.

They are a source of limitless imagination, comfort, spirituality and simple beauty that speak to both the most innocent ears of a young child and the most experienced, seasoned musician.

As Pavlos says, however many times Bach’s cello suites are performed and heard, they never cease to surprise with the freshness and the fantasy of their creation.

Pavlos labels them “the most faithful constant companion.”

“And I think Bach has taken on a new meaning in this time of isolation. For a cellist it is one of the rare bodies of work that you can play completely alone. You don’t need anybody else. They are a wonderful companion. It is just you and them. You don’t need a pianist. You don’t need anyone.

“And it has been amazing to rediscover them during the pandemic. It has saved me. When everything closed down, I could still sit and play them, a singular experience.

“And it has been therapeutic in the sense that it has taken on new meaning. Bach has always had this cathartic element, whether it is catharsis from all of the other big works, the Dvoraks and so on, or whether you have just had a rough day and wanted something that is not too noisy, something you can just breathe with. You can feel alone musically and you pick up Bach and then suddenly you are not alone. It is so spiritual. It is time to reflect away from whatever else is happening. It is the faithful companion that never leaves your side. And I have certainly felt that more strongly during the pandemic.”

Doubtless the pandemic will have changed things in other ways. Pavlos wonders whether concerts might somehow be less precious now. Pavlos worked online extensively throughout the pandemic and noticed that some of the formality of the concert format had disappeared, suddenly inappropriate to online performance.

“Musicians have been talking more to their audiences, and I think there is value in that. It breaks the ice, and I think musicians might bring that more now to the (live) concert platform. Taking away the preciousness is a good thing. People have loved the online concerts with the chitchat and banter.”

And as Pavlos says, well, if people want to clap between movements – something so often frowned upon – then why not. There will always be times when a performer will ask for it not to happen, times when the silence between movements is actually part of the performance.

But there are other times when Pavlos would welcome spontaneous audience response: “If I hear clapping then it gives me confidence and a boost and raises my performance because I know it is being appreciated. It can be a very good thing, and I do think that that’s one of the things that might change in the future.”