Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo: Vols. 1-4 by Steven Hancoff (Interview, Spotlight and Giveaway)

Today I bring you a triple threat which includes not only an author interview with Steven Hancoff, who compiled this four-volume set of books but also a book spotlight and a giveaway. Entitled Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo, Volumes 1-4, described below, delve into the history of Bach’s music, the discovery of Casals’ concertos, plus the six suites transcribed by my guest.

Don’t miss the giveaway immediately following our conversation!

Please join me in welcoming Steven Hancoff!



Author and Musician, Steven HancoffQ:  Where are you from?

Born & raised Baltimore, MD.

Q: Tell us a little about yourselfyour education, family life, etc.

BA – Tiny St. Johns College, Annapolis, MD, esteemed for its singular “100 Great Books of the Western World” program based on reading and conversation instead of lectures and tests. By “tiny,” I mean my graduating class was 38 members. I just attended Homecoming. I find myself, as the years pass, more and more connected and grateful that I went there.

Q: Tell us your latest news.

What became my life’s work is now released into the world: 3CD set: From Tragedy to Transcendence – The Six Suites for Cello Solo by J. Sebastian Bach for Acoustic Guitar, and the simultaneous release of the four-volume iBook: Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo.

Q: When and why did you begin writing?

Well, it was almost a kind of accident. I wanted to transcribe and record Bach’s Cello Suites for guitar. Cello is a one-note-at-a-time instrument; a guitar is designed for playing melody, but also harmony, chords, bass lines, etc. I thought that to harmonize the music more deeply and more beautifully, it would serve me to learn about the man and the circumstances of his life when he composed the Suites. I started to read biographies. This led to thinking about him and his life, which led to writing, which led to more reading, thinking and writing.

Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I thought of myself as a musician. I only started describing myself as a writer when I began sending the project out, calling myself a musician AND writer.

Q: What inspired you to write your first book?

The more I delved into the material, the more inspired I became. I have come to feel that the story of Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo is a profound saga, a kind of legend, of Western culture that ought to be brought to light so that many, many people might be inspired by it like I have been.

Q: Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t know. A reviewer at Huffington Post called my style “natural, even folksy.” I definitely smiled when I saw that. Whatever the style, the iBook is definitely anecdotal, and not technical. It’s for interested people, whether they play music or not.

Q: How did you come up with the title?

On the one hand, it seems pretty descriptive and straightforward to me. On the other, I have come to believe it describes each person’s existential journey. So, it’s actually both a personal and a universal story.

Q: What are your current projects?

I am creating a concert length, multi-media presentation of the story. The first performances are in Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria at the end of November. I am calling it: From Tragedy to Transcendence –Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo. I notice now that when I tell some people about it, I like to say: “It’s real adult entertainment for real adults!”

Thank you, Steven, for taking the time to answer our questions about your work and this exciting compilation of music and history in your CD set and the four-volume series on Bach, Casals, and the transcribed music for acoustic guitar.

As an aside, I was fortunate to receive the CDs as a gift. My husband and I have listened to them more than once. Perhaps because we are fans of classical music and guitar, we found them an added dimension to our already large CD collection and something we’ll enjoy for some time.




50 – 2-disc CDs “The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo”
(open to USA & Canada)




Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for Cello by Steven Hancoff



A Totally Immersive Multimedia Experience

Richly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its Legacy

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd

Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby

Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites

From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.

Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.

For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his life, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.

In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.

Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cöthen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.

Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.

In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.

The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:

  •  How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.
  •  The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.
  •  How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.
  •  How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.
  •  The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.
  •  What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.

Buy the music & ebooks:  iTunes

Subscribe to Steven’s Hancoff’s work on YouTube



More about Steven Hancoff:

Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Master’s degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook

Future Tour Dates:

Check out the rest of this blog tour by following this link.



2 thoughts on “Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo: Vols. 1-4 by Steven Hancoff (Interview, Spotlight and Giveaway)

  1. Hancoff’s fervor for the Bach suites echoes Casals’ devotion… strains of music dovetail with what is the largest collection of Bach-inspired visual art ever amassed… It is an antique subject elegantly rendered in an impossibly light 21st-century container. – Roxane Assaf, Huffington Post, writing about the iBook

    Dear Sherrey,

    Thank you.

    Eight years! Eight years ago, I started the process of transcribing Bach’s masterpiece Six Suites for Cello Solo for my acoustic guitar. My only intention was to transcribe and then record them. But the more I worked, the more I felt a need to learn about the man, and especially the circumstances of his life, when he composed the Cello Suites. And the more I discovered, the more questions and ideas arose …until I began to realize that this was not simply a music project, but this was transforming itself into a life’s work. Fulfilling that mission became my purpose.

    And now, the project is done and released. And I want to tell you how much I appreciate your helping to make this work known to the world.

    I have come to feel that the saga I have discovered and articulated in the iBooks is the pre-eminent and most grand and by far the most profoundly serendipitous legend of Western culture. I intend to be touring the country with a multimedia presentation of it, telling the story with slideshow and video – pictures galore — over the next years. The presentation will be entertaining and enlightening.

    Thanks again…

    Steven Hancoff


    1. Steven, thank you for taking time to stop by and leave a message here. How could I not participate in an opportunity to highlight my other love (alongside books), music. My husband and I are both lovers of good classical music and incidentally, classic guitar. We are enjoying the gifted CDs and appreciate the effort that went into transcribing these compositions of our favorite, Bach. The inclusion of Casals in the title doesn’t hurt either! I must get the books now and learn from what you have learned about Bach. If you are ever in the Portland area, allow me to direct you to the wealth of good, classical music performed by the Oregon Symphony, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Chamber Music NW, The Bach Cantata Choir, and more. It is a pure joy to know that someone is taking the time to perpetuate good music from centuries past.


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