It is basically thanks to Pablo Casals that the world first became acquainted with the six Sonatas and Partitas for solo cello. Cellists knew about them, but regarded them as dry exercises, not suitable for public performance. Casals changed all that, and now these pieces are staples of the core repertoire of cello music. These early recordings were re-released on LP some years ago and now on CD. Casals' performances are highly charged emotionally, and bring out the implicit counterpoint of the music clearly. Several more recent cellists play this music dryly, as technical displays, and while some of these are excellent recordings, they lack the passion and musicality of these old Casals recordings. Highly recommended.
I've heard the Cello Suites in the movie "Master and Commander" and in tacky ads for bathroom renovations. But reading "The Cello Suites" by Eric Siblin and listening to Pablo Casals playing these Bach suites has opened a whole new musical world for me and a greater appreciation for the soulful strains of the cello. As Siblin describes it: "The amazing thing about the cello is its deep resonance, how the tones fill your entire body as if it were a sound box of flesh and bone. Every note is a bold statement."
The issue with historical recordings is always whether their deficiencies in sound quality are offset by a special performance that makes it worthwhile looking past the defects. This famous and landmark recording from Catalan cellist Pablo Casals remains a very good musical interpretation of JS Bach’s Cello Suites 4,5 and 6 and comes to us here in a quality remastering which minimizes hiss, noise and distortion, allowing the music and playing to come through. That said, this Casals recording – unlike say the unusual and excellent Beethoven sonatas he did with Rudolf Serkin or his very musical conducting of Schubert’s 5th symphony – in my opinion isn’t sufficiently excellent or individual to completely offset the sound. It will be of interest to those curious about how Casals played the suites.
The question I asked myself before listening to this Casals disc recently was how it would stack up against Pierre Fournier’s celebrated 1960...
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