Folks, more free Bach cello music can be found in this new article. It is part of the Clean and Free Sheet Music initiative I’ve undertaken.
I took a detour from my usual Bach cello suite transcriptions this time. A while ago someone on Reddit posted a question asking for identification of music. It was a recording of Mstislav Rostropovich playing the cello for the Emperor of Japan, at the White House in 1994. The first piece at 0:37 caught my attention. I swore that I knew this music well – I could hum along ahead of Rostropovich. But I could not recall what this was. The music stuck in my head for days. The mystery drove me crazy.
I tried all sorts of “find the music” magics online, including by singing, by humming, by audio file, by playing on a on-screen keyboard, by entering notes explicitly, and by typing in the contour (shape). Nothing worked. Clearly this was a famous cello piece, but I just could not find it.
Not until I randomly searched for “Rostropovich” and various terms, that I hit the right combination of words. In hindsight, I could have found it in a few minutes, with just “Rostropovich adagio”. It turned out that this piece was actually Bach’s organ toccata, BWV 564. Pablo Casals transcribed it for the cello, and apparently it was one of Rostropovich’s favorite pieces.