Bach: Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007, 1008, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1012

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007, 1008, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1012
PERFORMER: Colin Carr (cello)
The balance between the explicit and the implied in Bach’s Cello Suites offers special opportunities for the interpreter to express his individual personality. Among some 40 available versions, Ma’s latest (recorded between 1994 and 1997) was originally released with a set of six films whose images reinforce this repertoire’s extraordinary intellectual and spiritual range. Most remarkable, though, is Ma’s brilliant illumination of the relationship both between the individual movements of each Suite and between the Suites themselves.


Colin Carr’s latest issue was inspired by Gunther Schuller’s wish to capture on record his performances of Bach’s Cello Suites in the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Boston, in September 1994. Some of the contrasts between these and Ma’s readings may derive from the altered circumstances of live performance, but there are also evident differences of conception. For example, Carr highlights the improvisatory writing in the Preludes, giving them added spontaneity. Alternatively, Ma’s declamatory manner boldly underlines this music’s dramatic power. And, although Carr’s faster pulse in the Allemandes and Sarabandes effectively defines the interaction of main notes and elaboration, the slower movements occasionally lack something in expressive depth. Otherwise, Carr plays with pleasing delicacy and style in the Minuets, Bourrées and Gavottes. Finally, despite his fleet-fingered lightness of touch, Carr generates less excitement in the Gigues compared with Ma’s more extrovert approach. Nevertheless, overall these atmospheric live performances convincingly blend textual strictness and extempore freedom. Nicholas Rast