In the '80s there were those listeners who thought that Heinrich Schiff might redeem cello performance practice from fatal beauty and lethal elegance. Aside from the burly and brawny Rostropovich, more and more cellists were advocating a performance style whose ideals were perfect intonation and graceful phrasing. In some repertoire, say, Fauré, these are perfectly legitimate goals. In other repertoire, Beethoven and Brahms, say, it is a terrible mistake. In Bach's Cello Suites, as the fay and fragile Yo-Yo Ma recordings make clear, it was a terminal mistake. Not so in Schiff's magnificently muscular 1984 recordings of the suites: Schiff's rhythms, his tempos, his tone, his intonation, and especially his interpretations were anything but fay or fragile. In Schiff's performance, Bach's Cello Suites are not the neurasthenic music of a composer supine with dread and despair in the dark midnight of the soul, but the forceful music of a mature composer in full control of himself and his music.
“Rostropovich's performances are masterly and all-involving, drawing distinctions between each work in his spoken introductions, although one can choose to hear the music without the commentaries. Unsurpassed and unsurpassable.” (The Penguin Guide)
Experience, virtuosity and individuality are all required when tackling J.S. Bach’s popular cello suites; Richard Tunnicliffe brings a lifetime of insight to his debut solo recording. Richard has made a special study of Bach's cello suites and his performances of all six have been acclaimed in Europe and Australia as well as at numerous venues in Great Britain, including Wigmore Hall and the Purcell Room in London.
This is one of the most important recordings of the 20th century, both for its content (considered by many the greatest cello music of all time) and for the intense devotion, careful preparation, and towering technical skill that went into the project. It was a brilliant idea to make a video as well as an audio recording. Cellists will welcome the chance to study Rostropovich's bowing and fingering techniques, close up and at leisure. And music-lovers will welcome the visuals of the recording location, a French church whose architecture, statues, and flickering candles complement the music.
Mstislav Rostropovich knew, loved and practiced the Bach suites from his teen years, when the legendary Pablo Casals gave him a private performance of one of them. But he did not feel ready to record the complete set until he was 63 years old. Then he found an ideal location for the recording; he carefully chose his recording technicians, and he supervised the sessions besides playing the cello as only he can. Each note is carefully considered and given its unique shape. The music's structures are made clear, its emotional overtones powerfully conveyed. The conventional structure of a baroque suite–an elaborate overture followed by a series of dances–comes vigorously to life. And Rostropovich gives a spoken introduction to each suite (in Russian, with English subtitles) playing illustrative passages on the piano or organ.
The result may appeal mostly to specialized tastes (unaccompanied cello is not everyone's cup of tea), but this video is a landmark.–Joe McLellan
In a promotional DVD accompanying this release Jean-Guihen Queyras cites the abundance of excellent Bach Cello Suites cycles on the market as one reason he waited until 2007 to commit his interpretations to disc. Queyras needn't have worried, for his playing is never less than beautiful, eloquent, and thoroughly world-class. It fuses the most apparent characteristics distinguishing certain memorable editions: Schiff's shapely melodic parsing, Pergamenschikov's infectious feeling for the dance, Bylsma's period-performance innovations, and Tortelier's purity of tone.
GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2015 - BAROQUE INSTRUMENTAL RECORDING OF THE YEAR. This recording is the first time that the five-stringed Amati has been used to record the 6th suite and it is the only original five-string cello in existence in the UK and unique in being the only one by this maker. The Cello Suites are performed on two gut-string cellos Suite Nos. 1-5 on a Francesco Ruggieri from 1660 and Suite No. 6 the five-stringed Cremona cello by A. & H. Amati from c.1600, both tuned to Baroque pitch. Bachs cello suites are renowned as the pinnacle of the instruments repertoire and are performed here in period performances by the internationally acclaimed cellist, David Watkin. David Watkin has been performing Bachs Cello Suites in concert for 35 years, and Bachs unaccompanied cello repertoire has taken him all over Europe, from the Palace of Frederick the Great at Potsdam to the Prague Spring Festival, and, as part of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, included performances sitting by the font in which Bach was baptised.