Sunday, 3 April 2016

Bach - Cello Suites - Vogler

Rating: 3/5

OK but not great

This is a decent recording of the Bach Cello suites, but not a great one, I think.  Jan Vogler brings a fabulous sound from his Stradivarius cello and he plays well, but this set doesn't quite hit the spot for me.

Vogler brings his own interpretations to these suites, as any cellist must do, and he emphasises the melodic lines very strongly.  This is fine, of course, but I think it comes at the expense of the harmonic depth, both explicit and implied by Bach, and hence of the real emotional and intellectual weight of the Suites.  It would be unfair to say that the whole thing sounds just a little superficial, but there's an element of that as I begin to long for more of the real solidity and depth of these magnificent works.  In addition, Vogler's phrasing and rhythmic variations – particularly the long, emphatic rallentandos at the end of a lot of movements – sometimes sound rather forced rather than emphasising the meaning of Bach's music.

I'm afraid that, for me, this doesn't come close to the superb recordings in recent years by Steven Isserlis or David Watkin.  Just compare the pleasant but slightly forgettable way in which Vogler plays the Sarabande from the 5th Suite with the depth and intensity given to it by Isserlis, or the fabulous beauty of Watkin's playing of the wide arpeggios in the Prelude to the 3rd Suite to the unremarkable skipping over them by Vogler, for example.

The sound on this set is wonderful, and beautifully recorded by Sony, and there's nothing actively wrong with Vogler's Bach, but it doesn't really stand with some of the greats of the past like Fournier or Tortelier, nor with the more recent recordings I've already mentioned.  Some of my reservations are personal and others may disagree, of course, but I'm afraid I can only give this a lukewarm recommendation.

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