Artistxite: J.S. Bach: The Cello Suites According to Anna Magdalena

October 13, 2015

Every professional cellist dreams about being able to record Johann Sebastian Bach‘s six suites for solo cello (BWV 1007-1012) one day. The preludes and the strongly stylised dance sets are still among the most difficult pieces ever written for the instrument. In addition to the technical challenge, there are any number of questions to be answered in terms of interpretation (mood, tempo, rubato, bowing). Therefore it comes as no great surprise when Bach experts like Matt Haimovitz choose to revise, update or replace their first recordings in light of new approaches and understanding gathered from research into historical practice and personal experience. For his Bach debut (in 2000, for the Oxingale label), he used the “normal” Bärenreiter edition of the suites from 1950, but for his second recording, he chose Anna Magdalena Bach’s manuscript for the suites in the belief that it “represents the closest we have to what Bach intended”. Of course, this recording uses a baroque bow on a historic instrument with catgut strings (and, in the case of suite no. VI, a baroque cello piccolo). But it is not the choice of historically-informed instrumentation, the most authentic possible edition of the music or Haimovitz’ dazzling technique which make these recordings outstanding, but his thoroughly inspired – sometimes dance-like, sometimes deeply provocative – and constantly moving performance. The cellos suites here are no great textbook examples of technique but rather the “quintessence of music” as Pablo Casals – who rediscovered the suites – once put it. Special mention must go to the fantastic recording technology of the PentaTone team who captured and reproduced Haimovitz’ performance with remarkable immediacy and natural character.

By: Salvatore Pichireddu

Read at: Artistxite

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