Notes and Editorial Reviews
A more conversational and airier approach to these works, one that can stand alongside Casals and Fournier.
Netherlands-born cellist, Pieter Wispelwey, is equally at home on baroque and modern instruments. His recent disc of Vivaldi cello concertos (Channel Classics, 8/97), though brilliantly played, I found only intermittently satisfying. His Bach Suites, on the other hand, are quite a different matter — not surprisingly since these are his second thoughts on the set; his first versions date back to 1989. These new performances are carefully prepared, beautifully executed and most eloquently expressed. The instruments, too, sound well, Wispelwey having chosen an early eighteenth-century cello by Barak Norman for the
first five Suites, and a violoncello piccolo by an unidentified craftsman for the special requirements of the Sixth. We are not absolutely sure about what instrument Bach had in mind for this piece but, though it can be performed on a standard cello, a five-stringed violoncello piccolo seems a likely candidate.
Wispelwey is an imaginative player with a highly developed sense of fantasy. These qualities are as welcome in his performances of Bach as 86 Gramophone November 1998 Pieter Wispelwey talks to Lindsay Kemp on page 26 about the challenge of re-recording one of the pinnacles of the cello repertoire Photo Channel Classics they are to be treated with circumspection in his almost entirely fanciful written introduction to the music. Preludes come across especially well since it is in these wonderfully varied opening movements, with their rhetorical diversity, that the performer can give rein most freely to his or her most natural conversational inflexions. Where Jaap ter Linden, in his recent accomplished recording, makes what seems to me very heavy weather of the Prelude of the G major Suite, Wispelwey articulates the phrases more briskly and with lighter, more supple inflexions. And he makes the most of that thrilling climax at the peak of a chromatic accent through a full scale and a half. More of it, indeed, than any recorded performance, other than that of Pierre Fournier, that I have heard. Sarabandes are profound and reflective without being weighty, and allemandes graceful and substantial. The galanteries, by contrast, are lightly bowed and redolent of playful and demonstrative gestures. That, to an extent, is true also of the courantes, while the gigues are firmly projected, full-toned and splendidly robust.
Wispelwey's set of Bach's Cello Suites, then, is deserving of praise. If you are familiar with the gruff grandeur of Pablo Casals, or the aristocratic nobility of Fournier, then these performances will throw an entirely different light on the music, more conversational and with airier discourse. I shall never want to be without the two earlier sets, but Wispelwey's version sits comfortably on the uppermost range of the period-instrument performance ladder. Strongly recommended.
-- Gramophone [11/1998]
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