Our Interview With Steven Hancoff, Author of Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo
Today we are pleased to present an interview with Steven Hancoff, author of the wonderful compilation on J S Bach. Mr. Hancoff is currently on a virtual book tour with iRead Book Tours. Drop in and learn more about the author and the books.
What type of challenges did you face during the creation of this project?
I was at the desk before 7:00 every day. Worked until 10:00 or 11:00. Rested. Then worked again in the afternoon. And again in the evening, often very late into the night. I feel I thrived on that kind of schedule. But maybe the biggest challenge was watching years go by, and not being able to travel to the rivers and mountains and trails and wonders around the world.
What do you hope readers will get from this work? What will they experience?
Well, first, I like to think the music is heavenly. Whether I did it justice is not for me to say. But I can assure everybody that I did it with plenty of love, as fully engaged an intellect of which I am capable, complete immersion and attention to detail! As for the book, there is, as I said, the art to enjoy. But beyond that, this is one of the truly grand stories of Western culture – a story I knew nothing about when I started. So, I’d assume the reader will not know about it too. I’d like for people to know about this as a grand legend of our shared Western culture.
What has been the audiences’ response so far?
So far, so good. There’s no question that most people prefer Beyonce to Bach. But everybody who hears the music or sees the book so far is expressing an immense “Wow!!”
Still, maybe the biggest challenge is to find a way to avoid the sinking feeling that many people get when they hear the name “Bach.” As Mark Twain said, they might feel they are about to have to “endure culture.” This is not your grandfather’s Bach… I promise!
What has been most rewarding about putting this biography together?
The most rewarding element of all is the feeling that I have done what I set out to do. That is, I am 67 years old. I do not know how many more years I will have to be able to wander this Earth. I get to know that, when I die, I will have left behind something of value, something that will have made the world at least a slightly better place to be by virtue of adding something of intrinsic value and beauty.
Where is Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo available?
Where can readers and listeners find more about your work?
What’s on the horizon for Steven Hancoff?
Beats me. Music to play, rivers to run, worlds to see, friends to hang out with. It’s a majestic world out there. And there are still plenty of glorious places to explore, amazing people to converse with, and adventures to partake of.
Right now, I am putting together a concert-length presentation – with music, video, slides – a multi-media telling of the saga. I’d like to take it on the road. In fact, I will be presenting it in Vancouver November 26 at a Book Festival.
It’s complicated because the story is so vast. I was joking with Beth that the story starts around 1570 or so, about when Bach’s great-great-grandfather arrives in Germany, and goes to 1973 when Pablo Casals died. Now, in concert, the rule of thumb is never go longer than it takes for a bladder to make its presence known – or felt… say about 80 minutes. That comes to that I have about 12 seconds per year!
Leave us with some words of wisdom about music.
“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue… Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato
Bach himself knew that Luther wrote: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”
Category: Adult non-fiction, 1189 pages
Genre: Biography / Music
Release date: June 2015
Tour dates: Nov 30 – Dec 18, 2015
Content Rating: G
FROM TRAGEDY TO TRANSCENDENCE
A Totally Immersive Multimedia Experience
Richly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its Legacy
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd
Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby
Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites
From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.
Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.
For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his live, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.
In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.
Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cothen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.
Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.
In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.
Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.
The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:
• How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.
• The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.
• How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.
• How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.
• The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.
• What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.
Meet the author:
Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Masters degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.