LABELS: Sony Essential Classics
WORKS: Suite No. 4 for Solo Cello; Suite No.5 for Solo Cello; Suite No.6 for Solo Cello
PERFORMER: Anner Bylsma (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: SBK 61812 ADD Reissue (1979)
Anner Bylsma’s pioneering 1979 traversal of Bach’s cello suites was the first to employ period playing techniques and instruments (a 1669 Goffriller cello, and an anonymous Tyrolean ‘Violoncello piccolo’ in Suite No. 6). These factors alone gave the cycle landmark status, but Bylsma’s endlessly fertile imagination afforded revelatory insights into this music that are as dazzling today as they were almost without precedent two decades ago.
It’s good to see these astonishing performances back in the catalogue, and probably no exaggeration to suggest that all subsequent authentic versions must yield to Bylsma’s visionary interpretations. Kirshbaum’s middle-of-the-road modernism is far less involving, however, and neither Bach’s style nor period suit him especially well. So while these unpretentious, technically adroit performances do have level-headed musicianship and excellent sound engineering in their favour, collectors seeking modern-instrument Bach cello suites would be better off with the recent Hänssler Bachakademie Edition set from Boris Pergamenschikow. Michael Jameson