I'm working through JSBach's Cello Suites, using Sellman's book. I'm not rushing it. After all, Pablo Casals, who brought this music back into the light after it had disappeared for 150 years, spent more than a decade working on it before going public with it.

Part of the charm and mystery of the Suites is the lack of instructions as to how they should be played. This has led to a variety of approaches and interpretations among cellists and students of various other instruments. I listen to the different interpretations and try to figure out how they can inform my own playing.

Recently I discovered the music of Hopkinson Smith, a well-known musician and musicologist of early plucked instruments. He recorded the Suites on his German theorbo. It's great stuff, full of period embellishments and imaginative flourishes. His music is readily available on youtube.

In contrast, the big-name cellists -- Casals, Rostopovich, Maisky, Ma, etc. -- seem to stick pretty much to the written notes -- certainly with marked individual approaches to tempo and phrasing -- but with minimal additions to the score.

The double-, triple- and quadruple-stops seem strained on bowed instruments, but the mandolin family can manage this richness with relative ease. On the other hand, those fiddlers can trill without even thinking about it.

These are interesting problems to work out, and I am finding it all quite entertaining. I know that there are other students of the Suites here at the Cafe, and I am interested to know how others are dealing with this wonderful challenge.