Bach: Suite for solo cello

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Bach: Cello Suites
WORKS: Suite for solo cello
PERFORMER: Jian Wang
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5228
With 60 recordings of these suites already available, to make a mark among such a host requires at the very least superlative technique, a deep understanding of French courtly dance and a musical personality modest enough to reflect and complement, rather than impose on, Bach’s intentions. The booklet notes here are most informative on Bach and the ‘French taste’. Jian Wang plays outmoded Allemandes fairly freely, though he holds the notoriously slow final one on a firm rein. Faster dances are superbly metrical but never inflexible as he bends rhythms around the underlying pulse. They are full of character, too – the third Allemande strutting proudly; the first Minuet with elegantly lifted steps; the final Gigue, intended for a five-string instrument, a tour de force with never a hint of hesitation at the fistfuls of multiple stops. Wang’s bow control projects lyrical melody above restrained harmony and repeats, rather than sounding literal, become developed expansions of the first playing of each half-dance. The six Preludes, each strikingly different, are full of contrasting character.

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Wang takes risks in the slowest movements. The pulse of the second Sarabande is so leisured that it becomes elusive, even in Wang’s own mind – he loses half a beat at one point. This alone restores Jaap ter Linden as my on-going benchmark (after flirting with others, notably Antonio Meneses’s unaffected playing on Avie). Otherwise, this is wonderfully imaginative playing, with fine recording picking up a resonant bloom without obscuring detail – a ‘must’ for any collection. George Pratt