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

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: IDM Records
WORKS: Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007, 1008, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1012
PERFORMER: Savely Schuster (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: (distr. +1 508 820 8738; www.cdfreedom.com)
Savely Schuster plays on a Grancino cello (c1680) at modern pitch. Neither IDM’s jewelcase liner (where track listings for disc 1 are printed incorrectly) nor Schuster’s personal web site discusses his background, though he cites Casals, Fournier and Starker as principal models for this Bach traversal.

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In the First Suite, the Allemande is nicely shaped, with carefully tiered dynamics, but the suspect G (above middle C) climaxing the first section warns of alarming intonation flaws to come. There’s some poor tuning and bow control in the Sarabande, too, and the final Gigue, very deliberately played, contains audible position shifts. Schuster also tends to distort rhythmic structures. Note-lengths are sometimes approximate in the Praeludium and Courante of the D minor Suite, and someone should have noticed that the stopped and open Ds sounded together at the beginning of the Sarabande don’t agree in pitch. Equally disconcerting is the unwelcome glissando several bars into the Gigue, like most in Schuster’s survey taken very ponderously indeed.

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A sudden cracking noise heard near the beginning of the E flat Suite also warranted a retake, and thumb-position passagework in Suite No. 6’s Praeludium brings further questionable tuning. Close microphone placement also picks up finger percussion and string noise. Schuster might care deeply about this music, but if you’re after a cycle that constantly challenges and enlivens, get Pieter Wispelwey’s magnificent Channel set. Otherwise, if authenticity isn’t your main concern, Pierre Fournier’s heraldic DG survey has the grandeur and gravitas that Savely Schuster tries unsuccessfully to recreate here. Disappointing. Michael Jameson