In 1717, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen hired thirty-four year old J.S. Bach as court composer after hearing Bach perform at his sister’s wedding. Prince Leopold adored Bach and was his patron for the creation of the Brandenburg Concertos, the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Sonatas and Partitas for violin solo and the Six Suites for cello solo, along with many of Bach’s most important secular works.
Bach composed the suites for cello, arguably the most perfectly expressive music ever written, over the period in which he suffered the tragic death of his first wife and subsequently met and joyfully married Anna Magdalena. In 1723, Prince Leopold was forced to dissolve his court music for financial reasons, and Bach’s later employment was fraught with chronic hardship. Bach wrote of the Köthen period, “There I had a gracious Prince as master, who knew music as well as he loved it, and I hoped to remain in his service until the end of my life.”