Janos Starker and Michael Bach in Conversation


December 11, 2000

Conservatoire de Musique de Genève, Grande Salle


Janos Starker: Ja, you can play chords. How do you hold the bow?

Michael Bach: Well, I have different kinds of bows, so, this is one of it, and I hold it like that.

JS: Oh – my word …

MB: Yep. (plays the beginning of 3 Pitches, 21 Sounds  )

JS: (interrupts) OK, you can play three strings together. How does it work with the Suites, with the Sarabandes?

MB: Yes, as I said, I have different kinds of bows – I simply change the bows. This bow is actually designed for contemporary music – I mean, the music which doesn’t exist until now.

JS: So, you can write the kind of music for the cello which, before you, couldn’t be realized?

MB: Exactly. So, this is another kind of bow.

JS: (to the audience) So, for all the people who are here I will declare: I open my mind! (laughter)

MB: You have an open mind – because you pay attention …

JS: I open it, I open it … (laughter)

(MB plays the first part of the Sarabande in C major)

JS: Now – it sounds very good (applause) – but, I’m so happy, that there is a good cellist with the bow- so, that helps. – But, what I’m not quite sure – that in – in case of using the BACH.Bow wouldn’t it be a better  idea to use it with a – baroque cello?

MB: Well – huu – why?

JS: Because the fact is, that we are using something which reminds us the way may have been played at the time, right? On the other hand we are playing on an instrument which is high pitched, and so on.

MB: I am sure you can do that, but I never did it. As I said, this kind of bows – I played now Bach because you asked me to do so – but, this bow I actually developed for to play contemporary music – and to play one, two,  three and four strings together and with flexible changes – and, you can also use it for Bach …

JS: But the primary purpose is not that …

MB: No …

JS: The primary purpose is to allow the kind of music to be written which use multiple strings …

MB: Yes.

JS: Well, – ah – anybody wants to try?

MB: Would you like to try it?

JS: I don’t know how to hold it yet, (laughter) but – teach me, teach me.

MB: Well …

JS. This is where the thumb has to go in? It’s enough to make your hair stand on end – if I would have hairs, I would clip it! (laughter)

(JS plays the beginning of the Sarabande in G major.)

JS: But I don’t promise that I am going to spend the next year practising it (laughter). – On the other hand the explanation is much clear and now, basically, the purpose of the bow invention is for the kind of music that  has not been written yet, but is supposed to be – eventually – ah – anybody else would like to try? Anybody is sportsman-like? Sportswoman-like? – No tinkers !?

JS: The ideal thing, if you think, what’s going to happen to this invention of yours – that it’s only the people basically would be interested in, who are also at the same time interested in the kind of music that this allows to be written and to be played.

MB: Ja- It’s a thing for the future …

JS: What I am trying right now, I am trying to find out the commercial value of the thing!

MB: Well, (laughing) that’s typical American! (laughter)

JS: Artistically, I am – ah – just appreciative, but I don’t quite see – ah …

MB: No, it’s idealistic …

JS: (dramatic pause, then applauds ironically, audience applauds too, laughter)

MB: … at the moment (laughter).

JS: When people invent something I would like to be seen – to be used by many people. And I don’t quite see at that point, who will the many people be, who will use it, that’s my …

MB: Well, there are some new pieces for it by John Cage, for example, by Dieter Schnebel, a German composer, or Hans Zender wrote a new cello concerto for this bow – I also compose for it …

JS: That’s what I mean, so, which means that – ah – the hope is to be spread the playing of those works which require the use of this.

*) Michael Bach Bachtischa, 3 Pitches, 21 Sounds for Cello (1997)
composed for Mstislav Rostropovitch’s 70th birthday