Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cellist Phoebe Carrai performed with period-instrument ensemble Musica Antiqua Köln from 1983 to 1993, arguably the group's eclectic heyday. Carrai's spirit of adventure apparently hasn't waned in the meantime, given her curious and often unique interpretations of these familiar Bach suites. Her rendering of the opening Prelude of the First suite is inordinately broad and spacious, her subtle easing into the first note of each phrase giving the entire movement an inevitable flow and continuity. The fourth-movement Sarabande receives a similar slow, probing treatment akin to that of Jaap ter Linden (Harmonia Mundi). In contrast, Carrai's rendering of the Second suite's Courante is swift and expertly articulated, rivaling the speed and
accuracy of Wispelwey (Channel) and Dieltiens (Accent) as well as modern-instrument virtuosos Navarra (Calliope) and Starker (Mercury).
At times Carrai's unconventional stylistic differences have a tendency to border on mannerism. For example, in the final Gigue of the Second suite, where Carrai's weighty, disproportionate emphasis on certain individual lines imbues the movement with an unusual lugubrious elegance, her forebearance also undermines the dance. Further, Carrai's occasional stresses on the introductory notes of the Fourth-suite Prelude simply sound bizarre. Likewise Carrai's uncharacteristically dreamy, evenly tempered renderings of the Sixth suite's two Gavottes (fast duple-meter folk dances) are among the slowest ever. Compared to my period-instrument reference performance by Anner Bylsma (Sony SEON), who sensibly completes this same movement in less than three minutes, Carrai's 4:37 is a bit of a stretch.
Avie's richly resonant sound complements Carrai's full-bodied performances. John Lutterman's informed notes are a joy to read. While not recommendable as a first choice among the many recordings of Bach's Suites, Carrai's highly personal and yes, distinguished performances nonetheless offer a genuine point of view--which is more than can be said for many less imaginative accounts that currently clutter the catalog.
--John Greene, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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