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Title: Bach's suites for solo cello (BWV 1007-1012) and the textual geographies of modernity
Author: Markovska, Nadya
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 5220
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the textual history of Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello (BWV 1007–1012). There is no autograph manuscript in Bach’s hand. The Suites gained their popularity via four different manuscript copies, each suggesting a different reading. Established research paradigms assume the existence of a single, ‘correct’ model of this music, prioritising the composer’s authority. This project challenges this perspective by valuing the Suites as an open and flexible text. Instead of searching for an authoritative source, bearing the truth, I focus on the ability of music to adapt to different audiences in order to communicate with them. The main goal of this study is to explain the abundance of interpretive readings in the extant sources of the Suites. I base my findings on the idea of expressive variety in music, which I trace as an aesthetic norm within professional music circles in Bach’s time. Variety in expression gives the performer freedom to reshape the composer’s original idea by adapting it to the context of the performance. A fundamental aspect of this understanding is to view music as a process that is flexible enough to go beyond its written texts. Central to my discussion is the expressive irregularity in Anna Magdalena Bach’s reading of the Suites, aiming for discovering as many expressive variants of a single melodic model as possible. The theoretical foundation of this study is deeper understanding of the contexts of music making in Bach’s time. I understand the variety of aesthetic conventions of this era as outcomes of specific cultural and social needs. I view these through the theoretical framework of the historical geographer Miles Ogborn. Ogborn understands history as a compilation of differences and not as a linear development. The interpretive variants in the extant sources of the Suites reflect a communication of different models of modernity, shared within different communities of listeners. I view the sources of the Suites as important documents of a diversity of cultural contexts for communicating Bach’s musical ideas. The main contribution of this thesis is to provoke an alternative understanding of Bach’s music: as a process of creative thinking and not as a fixed historical artefact. I view the composer’s original idea as an open text, inviting its consumers to develop it further in order to discover new meanings. This flexibility of music to adapt to various contexts in order to respond to a diversity of aesthetic needs, cultural traditions and learned expectations, builds a bridge between Bach’s music and present-day audiences. It also serves as a basis to explain irregular or amorphous music such as Anna Magdalena’s scripts.
Supervisor: Irvine, Thomas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available