Markku Luolajan-Mikkola plays Bach Sonatas and Partitas
One cannot argue with the booklet note enumerating the ways in which JS Bach’s music has been successfully transcribed. But plunging the airy violin solo partitas and sonatas down a twelfth to be played on Baroque cello proves a step too far.
In Markku Luolajan-Mikkola’s hands these sprightly dances are barely recognisable as they lumber through a gloomy, boomy church acoustic. The elegant E major Loure grinds away as if heard on an LP at half speed, while the faster Gigue is all friction. Luolajan-Mikkola is a distinguished cellist and teacher, and his affection for the music is palpable. But the sound is congested, phrases lumpen, tempos laboured. The tumultuous D minor Chaconne loses momentum and almost drowns in its own bass resonance. A low point is perhaps the fugue of the Sonata in C: we’re painfully aware of bow against string, and strained, sour intonation. There are virtuosos who might have been able to bring this off – Paolo Pandolfo is one, but he has wisely chosen not to try.