This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Anyone offering Bach's six solo cello suites on a modern instrument is up against the formidable opposition of Tortelier's passionately committed and eloquent HMV readings (the splendid recording on a baroque cello by Anner Bijlsma, which is in a different category, is at present out of the catalogue, more's the pity). Yo-Yo Ma on CBS, fine player as he is, and commendably free from mannerisms, comes over in general as rather too earnest and somewhat reticent in character: perhaps all he needs is the experience of living longer with the music.
On the present issue, Tortelier's richness of tone, conviction and projection are not to be looked for: Harrell's concept is basically different and far more intimate—often, in fact, so
quietly confidential that he seems only to be allowing us to eavesdrop on his private musings. It is hard to avoid the impression of underplaying in places, especially when (as in the C major Prelude and Courante) he lets the tone thine out unduly; and his sometimes self-consciously 'poetic' approach comes dangerously close to a sentimentality that Bach could never have intended—in the D minor Prelude, for instance, or the Sarabandes, which are all taken very slowly, those in the E flat and C minor Suites failing to generate momentum. At the other extreme, the second C minor Gavotte is unconvincingly rushed, and the E flat Gigue is breathlessly fast and lacking in control. This is in contrast, though, to the other Gigues, which in fact show Harrell at his best—that in C minor admirably firm, those in D minor and C major with a real lift to the rhythm. Technically his playing is very assured, outstandingly so in the cruelly high-lying final suite (intended for a five-stringed instrument but played here on the normal cello); but I wish he didn't adopt so 'chippy' a staccato (as in the first D minor Minuet and the first C minor Gavotte) and snatch at chords (as in the C minor Courante and the first D major Gavotte). Things that command admiration are the breadth of his opening of the C minor Prelude and its light, fastish fugato, and his swift-flowing E flat Bourrees.
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