Next up in our Meet the Musicians series is composer and cellist Joe Davies. The holder of the BBC Young Composer of the Year award and a double First from Cambridge, he is now devoting his time fully to a Masters in Cello performance at the Royal College of Music. Joe will open the Concert in Three Halves with the virtuosic prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6.
What do you love about the piece you’re playing? What makes it stand out?
I love the feeling of joy and optimism this piece can create. It’s full of rising figures, which push the player far beyond the upper limits of most contemporary cello writing (Bach even calls for an extra string to help you reach the highest notes). The key, D major, is all trumpets and drums, while the rhythm – mostly constant quavers in 12/8 – gives everything a dancing movement that can occasionally snowball into these fantastic flourishes.
Is there a particular moment we should be listening out for?
Listening for dramatic contrasts and shocking chords will likely leave you disappointed – there is a moment of B-minor pathos around the middle of the prelude, and a decorative cadence before the coda, but this is not Beethoven. Its consistency is what makes it great. For about five minutes, Bach concerns himself with different shades and nuances of one emotional state. This creates an amazing cumulative effect, which requires great concentration from both the player and the listener.
If you could speak to one composer, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d speak to Mozart and ask him to write a cello sonata, or concerto!