6 Solo Cello Suites (arr. Serino)
Giuliano Carmignola (violin)
Arcana A533 138:43 mins (2 discs)
When Rachel Podger’s inspirational Channel Classics recording of Bach’s cello suites appeared back in July 2019, there were those for whom the cello’s soundworld and physical proclivities were so deeply ingrained that the necessary adjustments to pitch and fleet-fingered agility proved almost insurmountable. The following year, Johnny Gandelsman (In a Circle) went even further, playing with such a spring in his tail that any association with the music’s origins all but vapourised.
Employing the same key transpositions as Podger (the final suite stays rooted firmly in D), Marco Serino’s 2015 transcription presents two solutions to the scordatura (adjusted tuning) of the Fifth Suite – Giuliano Carmignola elects to go with lowering the top (E) string by a tone. Right from the timeless arpeggiations that characterise the G/D major suite’s opening Prelude, Carmignola asserts his own special interpretative proclivities: the magical musical intakes of breath during and at the ends of phrases, the endlessly flexible handling of dynamics, and a temporal elasticity that refuses to settle into any form of generic patterning. If more traditional accounts of these priceless scores tend to smooth over the music’s dancing origins, and those of a more authentic hue home in on their en pointe gesturing, Carmignola creates the impression of living through each phrase as though it is part of an over-arching choreographic narrative. In the timeless phrases of the C/G minor suite’s Sarabande, one can almost sense him moving gently to the music with exquisite poise, while in the Gigue finale of the D major suite, he seems on occasion to stamp his feet and clap, so evocative is his semantic gesturing.