WORKS: Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007, 1008, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1012
PERFORMER: Bruno Cocset (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 029
There is now a daunting number of available recordings of Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello. As well as the legendary performances by Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Paul Tortelier, André Navarra, Janos Starker and others, there are those of a markedly different character by younger generations of period instrumentalists – Pieter Wispelwey, Roel Dieltiens, Anner Bylsma and Jaap ter Linden immediately spring to mind. Add to this a steady flow of traditionalists such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma, Thomas Demenga and Alexander Rudin and we are well on the road to total confusion and shopper paralysis.
Bruno Cocset, the elegant French virtuoso who features on this new set, plays period instruments – four of them, all made by Charles Riché after 17th- and 18th-century models. Cocset’s style is distinctive and, at times, quirkily personal. He is no lover of extended phrasing, often preferring to break the lines up into small, clearly articulated units. This can be effective in some of the dances of a stylised Baroque suite, but it ill suits the innovative features and abstract character of the lyrically poetic preludes which introduce each of the six works. Here, I longed for the eloquent inflections of Fournier, the passion of Casals or even the puckish mischief of Tortelier. But this is certainly not matter-of-fact playing and it will find appreciative audiences for the clearly defined gestures with which Cocset characterises the dances. His intonation is more dependable than Bylsma’s in his later version, and his mannerisms less intrusive than those of Wispelwey. There is, in short, plenty to enjoy here, though my first choice remains Fournier, followed by Bylsma’s earlier set. Nicholas Anderson