Bach: Suites for Solo Cello

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WORKS: Suites for Solo Cello; Sonatas for Viola da Gamba & Harpsichord, BWV 1027-29
PERFORMER: Karine Georgian (cello), Gary Cooper (harpsichord)


Karine Georgian is a most accomplished cellist with a rich, sonorous tone and exemplary intonation in the Suites, pinnacle of the instrument’s repertoire. She negotiates the multi-stopped chords of the final Gigue, a metrical graveyard for many, with barely a moment’s disturbance of the pulse.

Her approach is, though, solemn, respectful and rather old-fashioned. For instance, she plays Bach’s written chords at the end of the second Prelude, though few nowadays doubt that they are a shorthand for continuing the movement’s broken-chord semiquavers.

Tempos are deliberate, dances stately rather  than energetic. At best, they are deeply moving, for example the sixth Sarabande, (for me the most inspired of all 36 movements in the Suites). But the third Sarabande, in a performance that clocks in at 5:05, lacks impulsion – Steven Isserlis, my benchmark, completes its gently undulating steps in under four minutes.

Yet, however slow a dance may be, Georgian never loses its underlying pulse. Bach specifically chose the transparent gamba for the three Sonatas in which harpsichord provides matching upper line and bass. Performed with cello, balance rather disadvantages the keyboard.


So, for example, after the final movement of BWV 1027 opens with harpsichord alone, the cello entry is intrusively overpowering. These are lively performances though, carefully recorded to compensate for the disparity between period harpsichord and unashamedly modern cello. George Pratt