Weekly Update

Opening this weekend for two performances only at the World Theater, CSU Monterey Bay, is El Teatro Campesino’s production of Luis Valdez’ new historical romance. See our CALENDAR.


Despite PAMB’s dedication to live performing arts in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, contributor Susan Meister persuaded us to add the bounty of Live Performance Cinema to our weekly CALENDAR. That includes the Metropolitan Opera, London’s National Theatre and many others that are screened in area movie houses. There are seven such events this week alone. As a novelty, you might want to take in the two National Theatre screenings of Frankenstein at the Del Mar in Santa Cruz, to see Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternate their roles as Frankenstein and the Creature.

Speaking of the National Theatre, thanks to its worldwide telecasts the company has raked in £100 million. Read about it HERE.


Carmel’s Suzanne Mentzer appears in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, season-opening live telecast this Saturday, 9:55am, at Cinema 13, Del Monte Center, Monterey. Links on our CALENDAR.


Sorry, sports fans, but the stats back it up. Click HERE.


This AUT_THOMASweek it’s Taelen Thomas, poet and bard well-known for his one-man personifications of such historical heavyweights as Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London and John Steinbeck. Click HERE.


Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the greatest and most harassed Soviet composers of the 20th century. One of his most emotionally searing works is the Piano Trio in E Minor, Op 67. Don’t miss it at the Santa Cruz Chamber Players performances this weekend in Aptos. Check our CALENDAR.

THE CELLO SUITEScello suites

Eric Siblin’s double biography of J.S. Bach and Pablo Casals also speculates on the solo cello suites, some of Bach’s most personal and mysterious music.

Any cello player with professional ambitions must embrace the six cello suites by J. Sebastian Bach as the bible. While the suites do not go to the most remote regions of tonality—the ‘circle of fifths’ key signatures, both major and minor—as does Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, they do plumb the depths of the German composer’s intellectual and emotional landscape in purely instrumental terms. Only the St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion and the Mass in B Minor go to where words and music penetrate an even deeper humanity.

Siblin’s book, originally published in Canada in 2009, tells of how Casals, a young teenager in Barcelona, in 1890, stumbled upon an edition of the virtually unknown works. As you read it, you can see how cleverly Siblin wove the threads, told in chapters titled by the movements of the six suites, and his own mounting curiosity about about how they came down to us. No original manuscript has been found, but rather an edition by Grützmacher and, apparently, one by Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena, whose calligraphy became almost indistinguishable from the great man’s itself. Since the last of the six suites calls for a five-string instrument, a nagging conclusion is that Bach may have had in mind the violoncello-piccolo—or maybe the music was conceived as an ideal, without a specific application; one of the suites exists in a version for lute.

Casals, the great Catalonian cellist who began each day of his adult life playing movements from both The Well Tempered Clavier and the cello suites, had no one to guide him with the latter. He explored them himself for a dozen years before coming to understand their character, then, at last, played them in public. In the 1930s he began to record them, a document that to this day stands as a landmark no cellist can afford to ignore. In his research, Siblin discovered 24 CD recordings available in one record store alone, including multiple surveys over many years by some of the same artists.

Subtitled J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, the book delves deeply—easier for Casals than Bach—into the complex personalities of both. Siblin also collects various comments from well-known cellists of today. A former pop music critic in Montreal, Siblin was well-positioned to put his observations into the context of today’s music, including the cultivated and the vernacular. Awards came his way for The Cello Suites which is refreshingly free from the entre-nous cultural references used by so many classical critics and reviewers one reads these days.


Philip Pearce reports on Michael Frayn’s COPENHAGEN at La Mirada. Click HERE.

Scott MacClelland, editor