Cellist Ailbhe McDonagh releases a new album on the Steinway & Sons label featuring Bach’s complete Suites for Solo Cello - some of the most beautiful, challenging, and intricate works composed for the instrument.
This is the first published recording of Bach’s complete Cello Suites by an Irish cellist.
On February 2, 2024 the Steinway & Sons label is pleased to release Ailbhe's McDonagh's recording of Bach's Complete Solo Cello Suites (STNS 30232). As Ailbhe writes in her program notes, "Bach’s Cello Suites are some of the most beautiful, challenging, and complex works composed for the instrument. Bach’s ability to create counterpoint on a solo instrument is astounding. He really makes the cello sound like an orchestra rather than just one instrument. Composers the world over (myself included) have been inspired by him to compose solo suites for the cello. The variety of characters, moods, rhythmic interest and phrase structure heard in these suites keep the performer engaged and eager to perform these works over and over again.
From my earliest days as a cellist, I had always hoped to make a recording of the Bach Cello Suites. To date, there are no recordings of these pieces by an Irish cellist, and I think that it is important to have a record of how an Irish cellist would perform these iconic works. This recording, for me, needed to have the raw, true sound of how I perform the Bach Cello Suites in concert. You can hear it here on a modern instrument (Postacchini cello) with a modern bow (Noel Burke) in the modern tuning that is standard in the Republic of Ireland (442).
In this recording, my aim was to have a very distinct musical character for each movement. It was important that each dance movement should feel different from the previous one to ensure that the vibrancy of Bach’s music was always alive. I enjoyed having an almost ‘Irish Jig’ feel (from Irish traditional music) in all of the Gigue movements.”
— Ailbhe McDonagh
“Cellist Ailbhe McDonagh is amongst the most promising and award-laden musicians working in Ireland. This recital proves that she is a formidable act. A commendable performance.”
“Irish cellist Ailbhe McDonagh brings spontaneity and fresh ears to the music... this is music making that blends head and heart seamlessly.”
Classical Music Sentinal
“McDonagh plays with flawless technique, faultless intonation, and a strong yet meltingly sweet tone.”
Bach: Complete Cello Suites / Ailbhe McDonagh • STNS 30232
Recorded August 15 - 22 2022 at TU Dublin Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland.
Producers: Orla McDonagh, Ailbhe McDonagh
Engineer: Ben Rawlins
Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Project Coordinator Renée Oakford
Photograph of Ailbhe McDonagh: Marshall Light Studio
This album was produced with funding by the Arts Council of Ireland.
About the Artists
Cellist Ailbhe McDonagh has earned international recognition as both a soloist and chamber musician. Ailbhe has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Yale Norfolk Festival, and the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival. She has given performances for the Irish President at Áras an Uachtaráin, appears regularly on national television and radio, and her recordings have been broadcast worldwide.
As an accomplished chamber musician, Ailbhe collaborates with the acclaimed pianist John O’Conor, with her sister Orla McDonagh, and with violinist Lynda O’Connor. She is a member of the Ficino Ensemble and the traditional Irish music crossover group Trio Elatha.
In addition to her performance career, Ailbhe is an established composer published by Boosey & Hawkes. Her compositions have been featured in syllabi worldwide, and she has received commissions from festivals in Ireland, USA and Europe. Her debut orchestral work Irish Isles Suite was recorded and released by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in 2023.
Ailbhe has been a member of the Strings faculty at the Royal Irish Academy of Music since 2010. She is also in demand as a masterclass instructor.
Her debut solo album, It's a Cello Thing (2012), was named CD of the Week on Ireland’s national classical music station, RTÉ Lyric FM. Her 2020 album, Skellig, was featured in the Irish Examiner’s Top Albums of the Year.
In 2021, Ailbhe released Beethoven: Complete Cello Sonatas with John O'Conor on the Steinway label. Classical Music Sentinel states "McDonagh and O'Conor coalesce perfectly, as if propelled by the music's undertow, and echo each other's expressive mien with dynamic balance" and proclaims it as one of their Essential Recordings. AllMusic Guide gave the album 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The present album is the first recording of Bach’s complete Cello Suites by an Irish cellist. Ailbhe performs on an Andrea Postacchini cello from 1833.
About Steinway & Sons label
The STEINWAY & SONS music label produces exceptional albums of solo piano music across all genres. The label — a division of STEINWAY & SONS, maker of the world’s finest pianos — is a perfect vessel for producing the finest quality recordings by some of the most talented pianists in the world.