J S Bach

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Cello Suites
PERFORMER: Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: Harmonia Mundi HMC 901970-71
Here’s another excellent performance of this pinnacle of the cellist’s repertoire to add to over 50 currently available. Queyras is master of his instrument. Intonation is well-nigh impeccable, including meeting Bach’s demands of a five-string cello on a normal four-string instrument – the final Gigue barely hesitates in its complex multiple-stopped chords. He sustains a constant underlying pulse beneath the rhapsodically ornamented line >of the sixth Allemande, and winds up the preceding Prelude, which is essentially an Italian concerto, to a bounding tempo. >He’s an exciting player. For instance, the DVD clearly shows him bowing a great deal more off‑the‑string than is suggested by the (admittedly haphazard) slurs in the primary source, a copy by Anna Magdalena Bach, adding vitality to the faster dances. He sustains harmonic bass-notes though, most notably in the first Prelude where >the superb acoustic of a church in Sulzberg in southern Germany allows the harmony to build up dramatically. Compared with my benchmark Isserlis, Queyras is relatively interventionist. He sometimes reduces tone until it almost evaporates, building it up again through an extended crescendo – breathtaking at first, though it risks becoming predictable. His nervous energy ruffles the exquisite calm of the sixth Sarabande, the >fifth courante is quite wildly animated – and two chromatic alterations in the second Sarabande come as a surprise. But this is most warmly recommended for revealing new facets of these unfathomable Suites.