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Bach: Cello Suites 4-6

2 Ratings: 4.5
An album by Johann Sebastian Bach
1 review about Bach: Cello Suites 4-6

A Crowded Field

  • Jul 24, 2010
Wow! The only previous reviewer, "Mr JB", calls this performance of the 4-5-6 cello suites his "favorite", yet gives it only four stars! Uf ta, there's no grade inflation where he lives. Bach's six suites for solo cello rank, for me, among the few justifications for humanity's claim to a special place in the cosmos. Even the most routine interpretation of them always moves me and tells my ears something new about them.

Paolo Beschi is the cellist of the piano trio ensemble La Gaia Scienza, whose recordings of Schubert and Brahms have thrilled me head to toe. I was excited, therefore, to discover that he has recorded the Bach suites, and I rushed to order the CDs. I have Suite 6 playing behind me as I type. I've listened raptly to suites 4, 5 & 6 now. Beschi plays a robustly dark, well-bottomed baroque cello, and its 'anthracite' clarity of tone is rendered even graver by the recording technology of this CD, with the mike(s) extremely close to the instrument, I think. You can hear Beschi's 'technique' without any possibility of fudging or muddling it with studio-resonant mellowness. Beschi's Bach is all seriousness, a brooding thinker. He takes the tempi of some movements, especially in #4, as slowly and gruffly as musically justifiable or physically possible. But then he spins and soars on #5, emphasizing its higher tessitura, allowing his cello to aspire to sopranodom. Suite #6 is his most vivid interpretation. His solemn tempi and phrasing sometimes favors the tone colors of the music over the unifying dance rhythms, but on the whole this is a very fine performance. Mr JB is certainly correct in preferring it to the recordings he mentions, by Rostropovich and Ma.

However, recordings of the cello suites, even those on proper baroque cellos, run into stiff competition. I've carefully listened to Boschi's performance, suite by suite, in comparison to Ophelie Gaillard's and to Jean-Guihen Queyras's on A440 modern cello, and I feel no hesitation in declaring that Gaillard's is the best. She brings more lively variety to the music phrase by phrase, and more unity to each suite dance by dance. She never sounds as if she's lost focus. I was quite impressed by Queyras's performance when I first heard it -- as I am, don't get me wrong, with Boschi's -- but over many listenings I've discovered 'richnesses' in Gaillard's that Queyras doesn't match. If you really think that you only need one interpretation of the Suites, and only the best one, buy Gaillard's now, without a further moment's thought. But if, like me, you know in your heart that no single interpretation can ever be definitive and preemptive, you'll definitely find Paolo Boschi's Bach well worth hearing.

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2 Ratings: +4.5
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Bach: Cello Suites 4-6
Label: Winter & Winter
Release Date: November 17, 1998

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