Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Bach - Cello Suites - Sigiswald Kuijken

Rating: 4/5

An interesting project

It's a fascinating idea to record these wonderful works on a violoncello da spalla (an instrument I hadn't even heard of!) and Sigiswald Kuijken is a superb musician; the result is genuinely interesting and rewarding, although I have my reservations about it as a set of these Suites to listen to repeatedly.

The music is quite magnificent, of course.  It has been successfully played on a variety of instruments including viola, double bass and viola da gamba by truly great musicians but I have never found these interpretations quite match up to the great cello recordings – and that's how I feel about this.  It is really good in many ways: Kuijken understands the music very well and allows the lines to flow while keeping Bach's essential pulse; his intonation is excellent and the overall sound is quite pleasing.  However, there is a slight plodding feeling some of the time - in the Prelude of the Third Suite, for example, I don’t get the real emotion from those fabulous wide arpeggios – and the instrument lacks the cello's real depth of resonance which robs the music of some of its impact.

I don’t want to be too critical because this is a very laudable project and it's well done, but for the real soul of this music I'll be sticking to my much-loved cello versions by people like Fournier, Tortelier, Isserlis and Watkin (along with some more idiosyncratic interpretations like Anne Gastinel's).  For me, this is praiseworthy and interesting but not a version I will listen to repeatedly for pleasure.