Sunday, May 1, 2011

Katinka Kleijn to Tackle a Tricky Cello Suite

In the words of Matti Bunzl, artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, cellist Katinka Kleijn “is one of those forces of nature people marvel about.”

A member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1995, Kleijn, a native of the Netherlands, is also a member of the prestigious International Contemporary Ensemble, the guitar-cello duo Relax Your Ears, and the progressive rock band District 97.

She is also an audience favorite at the Bach Week Festival, where she will be returning May 1 at 7:30 p.m. to perform Bach's technically tricky Suite in E-flat Major, BWV 1010.

She says the Suite is “very special” to her. “I think it might originally have been an idea for a harpsichord piece that was transcribed later into a Suite for cello. This is most obvious to me in the prelude. This thought makes me listen to the Suite in a more polyphonic way. Even though it might seem I play mostly one line, there are many different voices and voice leadings in the piece. In the Cello Suites these voices are often indicated rather than actually written out, so they’re a lot of fun to perform.“

The E-flat Suite makes its own demands on a cellist.  “It’s in a key that is not very natural to the instrument," Kleijn explained in an email interview. "Easy keys would be A, D, G, or C, because you can use the 'open' strings. This means you don’t have to press down your finger to get that note to sound. There is no E-flat open string, so you have to finger almost every note. To play an E-flat major scale on the cello, you have to use a lot of ‘stretching’ in the left hand, which can get tiring.”
Kleijn says she’s loved Bach since childhood. “As soon as I could use the bow, I would play through the Suites every day and just have a great time.”

In addition to enjoying her solo turns at the Bach Week Festival, she says the festival “has made one of my childhood dreams come true — to play continuo in one of the Passions! To play continuo in Bach is an amazing experience. Because of the polyphonic nature of Bach’s music, the continuo part is just as important as any other part. In fact, you have a feeling that you are part of the very machine that drives everything that is going on.

“Bach’s music is so timeless in its beauty and structure that it never ever ceases to interest you."