Markku Luolajan-Mikkola plays Bach Sonatas and Partitas

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Linn
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Bach: Sonatas Nos 1-3; Partitas Nos 1-3
PERFORMER: Markku Luolajan-Mikkola (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: Linn LC11615

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One cannot argue with the booklet note enumerating the ways in which JS Bach’s music has been successfully transcribed. But plunging the airy violin solo partitas and sonatas down a twelfth to be played on Baroque cello proves a step too far.

In Markku Luolajan-Mikkola’s hands these sprightly dances are barely recognisable as they lumber through a gloomy, boomy church acoustic. The elegant E major Loure grinds away as if heard on an LP at half speed, while the faster Gigue is all friction. Luolajan-Mikkola is a distinguished cellist and teacher, and his affection for the music is palpable. But the sound is congested, phrases lumpen, tempos laboured. The tumultuous D minor Chaconne loses momentum and almost drowns in its own bass resonance. A low point is perhaps the fugue of the Sonata in C: we’re painfully aware of bow against string, and strained, sour intonation. There are virtuosos who might have been able to bring this off – Paolo Pandolfo is one, but he has wisely chosen not to try.

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Helen Wallace