Beautiful sound and some unusual interpretations
There is much to love in Mischa Maisky's reading of the Cello Suites, but I do have my reservations, too.
The Cello Suites contain some of Bach's very finest music, in my view, and I think they distil the very essence of Bach's genius into a magnificent series of sublime movements. Maisky plainly "gets" this – he invests the works with real passion and gives us a very powerful, emotional reading of the Suites. Sometimes this works very well – the whole of the First Suite sounds just wonderful to me, for example, with a lovely, heartfelt approach. In other movements I wasn't so keen: those fabulous wide arpeggios in the Prelude of the Third Suite didn't have the emotional power I expect, for example, and the slow, rather plodding tempo of the famous Bourée from the Third Suite just sounded wrong to me. Also, the astonishing Sarabande of the Fifth Suite is played with such explicit expression (and so much vibrato) that, perhaps perversely, it lost much of its usual power to move me. Sometimes, if you'll forgive the cliché, less is more.
Whatever I may think about the interpretations, the sheer beauty of sound from Maisky's cello is simply mesmerising. It's probably the loveliest sound I know in any recording of these works (and I have quite a lot), and it's superbly recorded.
My reservations about this recording are very personal, and you may well respond differently. Personally, I'd go for Isserlis, Fournier or the recent brilliant recording by David Watkin before this, but that's the point of different recordings. I wouldn't reject this by any means. There are parts of this set which I return to again and again (especially the First Suite) and many people love it, so my advice is to give it a try of you can and see what you think – it may suit you very well.