WORKS: Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007, 100, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1012
PERFORMER: Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007-12
CATALOGUE NO: CD-803-04
Thedéen’s Bach Suites arrive like a breath of fresh Nordic air into the current catalogue, with its extremes of performance styles, from the wispy period approach of Anner Bylsma and co, to the mighty records of Casals, Rostropovich, Starker, Maisky, groaning under the weight of another tradition. Beside these, Thedéen enters with a song in his heart and a spring in his step, combining the best of both practices, but not in the self-conscious compromise of Yo-Yo Ma, who played with a Baroque bow he hadn’t quite mastered.
The hallmarks of this young Swede’s playing – its extraordinary delicacy, attention to detail, rhythmic vitality, his ear for tonal colouring, not to mention the highly individual sound of his Tecchler cello – make these, for me, ideal performances. Unlike so many cellists, he never allows the momentum of each dance to pall, extending the line over the entire movement, while allowing enough flexibility within the bar for the music to breathe. This sense of forward propulsion allows him truly to dance, without imposing on the faster dances, such as the Courantes, the almost absurdly high speeds fashionable today. On the other side, his Sarabandes flow along with unaffected grace. How many can resist making too much of a meal of the beautiful C minor Sarabande of the Fifth Suite? Only this summer I heard two well-known cellists distorting the rhythms of this in an attempt to squeeze the last drop of momentous emotion from its simple, curving couplets.
Thedéen has been recording these suites since 1995, the last being the D major in 1999. His ability to make light of the enormous technical challenges in this work is impressive – the first and last movements positively glitter – although I could have done with a slightly more sustained weight in the poignant Sarabande. Similarly, I missed the granitic massivity of Starker’s Prelude and Fugue in the dark, mysterious C minor Suite, but these are small quibbles. A shining achievement, beautifully recorded, from an – as yet – hardly recognised master of the cello.