The German cellist Tanja Tetzlaff performs J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites Nos. 4 to 6 amid natural surroundings devastated by climate change. Beauty confronts its own destruction.
Do we really want to watch without lifting a finger?
Melting glaciers, desertified landscapes, flooded communities: climate change is having an alarming impact even in Europe. What are we humans doing to this wonderful planet?
Aghast at the depredation and destruction of our unique ecosystems, the renowned German cellist Tanja Tetzlaff wants to ask Nature for forgiveness. She will travel with her instrument to places in Europe where climate change has already become reality and visibly dealt severe wounds. Surrounded by sometimes bizarre scenery, she will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suites Nos. 4 to 6, contrasting them with works specially composed for her by Thorsten Encke. She levels accusations, stokes resistance and touches us with her virtuoso playing. The beauty of the music stands in sharp contrast to the often-dramatic images of damaged Nature, combatting the finality of destruction. A moving musical and visual plea for greater care and humility toward the beauty of our planet – at once ravishing and disturbing.
Human beings are capable of creating objects of timelessly
moving beauty: paintings, sculpture, architecture, compositions, literature … Yet, at the same time, we are recklessly imperilling and destroying our own world with all its natural and cultural treasures. Often it is sheer greed and heedlessness that drives the exploitation of the planet, annihilating entire ecosystems and allowing madcap climate change to spin out of control.
It makes me sad to witness how the destruction of Nature threatens not only the beauty of our world but our civilization and culture. Geopolitical crises and wars beckon as our human habitats shrink. We have to realize that the impact of climate change on our social and political culture will be vast.
And what losses do we face when cultural sites are no longer tended and the practice of art is no longer supported? When we are no longer strengthened and encouraged by the sublimity of great art? It is precisely during crises that we humans need the empowering forces of art to help us rise above ourselves in difficult times.
With this in mind, I want to humbly lower my eyes and apologize to Nature – in the midst of Nature herself. I will travel with my cello
to various European landscapes already visibly damaged by climate change. There I want to play music to the endangered environment – and to ask for forgiveness. With the most magnificent music one can imagine: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suites Nos. 4 to 6.
In its essence, I find Bach’s music equivalent to intact Nature.
No note is superfluous; each note is in its proper place; everything perfectly coheres. Just as in Nature, when left to itself rather than being exploited. Here, too, everything has its place – every landscape, every living being, every movement.
When I play Bach, I feel the dancing motions of water, wind and trees. I actually visualize them in my mind’s eye. To me, his Cello Suites are Nature metamorphosed into sound. That is why I have chosen these pieces – in order to perform them in our damaged natural surroundings, using them to ask for forgiveness and to give comfort.
My concert film is intended to touch and arouse people.
Not least, I want it to be a concert experience that allows us to perceive Bach’s Cello Suites in a wholly new light.
suites for a suffering world
Presented by Tanja Tetzlaff | Glenn Gould Bach Fellow 2021-23
made possible through the Glenn Gould Bach Fellowship of the City of Weimar
supported by the Philip Loubser Foundation in Cooperation with the Thuringian Bach weeks: https://de.ggbfellowship.org
idea: Tanja Tetzlaff
concept: Tanja Tetzlaff, Stéphan Aubé, Alix François Meier, Michael Bessert
director: Stéphan Aubé
production: Alix François Meier
text & layout: Michael Bessert