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Bach - Cello Suites / Steven Isserlis [Box set]

Steven Isserlis , Johann Sebastian Bach , Traditional , - Audio CD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: £23.55 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Conductor: -
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach, Traditional
  • Audio CD (30 April 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B000OQDV1U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,639 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Prelude
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Sarabande
5. Menuett l/ll
6. Gigue
7. Prelude
8. Allemande
9. Courante
10. Sarabande
See all 24 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Prelude
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Sarabande
5. Gavotte I/II
6. Gigue
7. Prelude
8. Allemande
9. Cournante
10. Sarabande
See all 16 tracks on this disc

Product Description

BBC Review

The question that immediately springs to mind on the release of a new CD set of the Bach Cello Suites is what, of value, could this recording possibly add to the myriad of existing recordings by the world's great and not-so-great cellists? Steven Isserlis argues that you don't record this set of masterpieces for the public, but rather for your own musical accomplishment. I'm not sure I subscribe to that view, but it doesn't matter as, unlikely as it may sound, I think that Isserlis has done the impossible. He has given the listener something new, and indeed something outstandingly good.

Isserlis has based his interpretation on a combination of the earliest four surviving manuscripts, drawing mostly from the Anna Magdalena copy. He also provides a scholarly treat at the end of the suites - three extra recordings of the first Prelude, played from the earliest three copies in turn. It is a fascinating insight into the variations of tempo, bowing, and ornamentation presented to each cellist as they decide upon their own interpretation.

Along with many cellists, Isserlis feels that the suites aren't dance suites alone but have a story behind them. He suggests that their expressive journey marks them as 'Mystery Suites', travelling from the nativity (No.1) to the agony in the garden (No.2), the descent of the Holy Spirit (No.3), the Presentation in the Temple (No.4), the Crucifixion (No.5), to the Resurrection (No.6). Whether you agree with this theory or not, it is an interesting take which probably merits further research. In the meantime, it gives the listener another way of hearing the familiar music, and also understanding of a few of the editorial decisions, for example the execution of the final five bar-long chords of the second suite's Prelude. So different are these long, static chords to anything in any of the other suites, usual practise is to assume they are broken chords. Isserlis, however, has decided to play them as they are written, believing them to represent the Five Wounds of Christ. Unusual as the decision is, it does work.

Aside from the religious interpretation, Isserlis's tone and tempo feel absolutely right. The fact that these are dances is never forgotten, and there are none of the self-indulgent rubatos that characterise some recordings. Dances such as the Menuet from Suite No. 2 are light and flowing, with energy and drive. However, they always retain a courtly feel rather than tipping over into country-dance bounciness, as can so often happen. For the sixth suite, in the interests of sonority, Isserlis has opted to play his four-string cello rather than the five-stringed model the suite may have been originally written for. Despite the extra position work this decision meant, the technical pressure is never heard, leaving the listener free to be caught up in the emotional, joyful music.

This recording can sit proudly on the shelf alongside the great recordings of Casals and Rostropovich. In fact, I may find myself picking it up as the favourite.

This recording is Disc Of The Week on Radio 3's CD Review --Charlotte Gardner

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Product Description

Suites n°1 BWV1007, n°2 BWV1008, n°3 BWV1009, n°4 BWV1010, n°5 BWV1011 & n°6 BWV1012 - Traditionnel écossais : La Chanson des Oiseaux - Prélude de la Suite n°1 selon 3 manuscrits différents / Steven Isserlis, violoncelle

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent recording 11 Mar 2008
Format:Audio CD
I have loved the Bach Cello Suites ever since I was an almost talent-free teenage cellist getting on for 40 years ago, and in that time I have heard (and often bought) wonderful recordings by some of the world's very greatest cellists including Casals, Tortelier, Fournier and Yo-Yo Ma. Isserlis's recording stands with the very best of them. He is a magnificent musician and has thought and studied for years before tackling the Bach Suites. This shows in his delightful involvement in the music, the way the dances really dance when they should and how the very soul of the music and of Bach shines through what he does. Joy, sorrow, beauty and passion are all beautifully evoked, and it's all exactly appropriate - no flashy tricks or dodgy imposition of things which aren't really there. There is just a deep understanding and love of Bach's music. The whole thing is a monumental pleasure.

The accompanying notes are extremely interesting. They show both the depth of Isserlis's scholarship and his thoughtfulness about the Suites. I particularly like the section headed "A personal feeling (definitely not a theory!)" in which he suggests that the suites may be seen as akin to Mystery Sonatas - an interesting and thought-provoking viewpoint, which never interferes with the music itself.

The recording quality is excellent. It is miked very close, giving an intimate feel - so intimate that you can hear the slap of Isserlis's fingers in the livelier parts. I love the sense this gives of his being in the room with you, and the sound of his cello is simply lovely throughout.

In the face of the greatness of some of the recordings which have preceded this one, I couldn't say this was definitive, nor even that it was my absolute favourite. But then I couldn't say that of any of the others either. I do know that if I had to choose just one recording to live with, this would be a very strong contender. Very highly recommended indeed.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent achievement. 21 Dec 2007
Format:Audio CD
This is a truly remarkable performance which has even eclipsed the revered Casals recording in my affections. There are aspects of it which catch the familiar listener off-guard, not least the extremely slow sarabandes which are clearly part of the interpretative license Isserlis takes. (There are, in fact, few markings in the score to indicate the speed, or so I believe, so ultimately I guess it is a question of how the individual listener is convinced, moved, or carried away by the approach.) I find the music making utterly involving. Over and over I find myself pausing in whatever I might be doing and completely taken over by the beauty of playing and the music, which is what good playing serves. This is not 'show off' music-making, but sublime. What a wonderful thing Isserlis has presented his father to celebrate his 90th year!
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Recording 22 Jun 2007
Format:Audio CD
Steven Isserlis has waited a long time to record the Suites and it shows. This is the most sublime recording you will ever hear. It is how you would not only play it if you were a cellist but how you would hear it in your heart. It is simple, unpretentious and a companion throughout the rest of life. the music speaks for itself through him and this is the biggest compliment I can give. Buy it. It's a classic.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational 11 Jun 2007
Format:Audio CD
Steven Isserlis has hit the spot with these inspirational performances! The brilliant cello playing and awe inspiring musicianship combine to form something rare. One really feels Bach would have loved this! A must-buy!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Live" Performance 23 Jun 2010
Format:Audio CD
Quite, quite, wonderful. At times I thought I had written the longer reviews myself and forgotten I had done so!! Having played these pieces (ha, ha) and listened to numerous recordings, I felt awed and embarrassed at discovering that I didn't know the suites for half of what they contained. SI gives us the suites as a full, totally satisfying, organic, rapturous whole in a way I have never heard before. Quite devastating. My heart was rent by profound intelligence and tenderness everwhere exibited in bucket loads. This was the best surprise gift between birthday and Christmas my mother has ever given me. I feel my understanding not just of the suites but the power of music has been infinity expanded. On the 25th listening I am still glowing with the awe and wonder that I have known only three of four times in a lifetime at the most intimate, soul shaking live performances/encounter.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rich and engaging 3 Feb 2011
Format:Audio CD
These remarkable works have now been recorded by a great many cellists - they seem to be the 'staple' big mission for any cellist wanting to show his or her worth. The works are complex masterpieces, each movement of each suite consisting of a miniature of absolute perfection.

Isserlis is a performer I much admire - I like his Brahms recordings very much and find great pleasure in some of his concerto recordings. I'm not entirely convinced by his Bach playing though. Whilst individual movements in themselves are well played - rich in tone and nicely expressive - I found a slight lack in consistency, in that overall each Suite as a whole didn't quite come together and sit as a complete musical entity. Each suite conjures a particular mood and I didn't feel that Isserlis really connected with the underlying spirit convincingly enough.

In particular, I found the opening movements of each suite to be very convincing. The Sarabandes unfortunately felt a little too over-emphasized in that the flow was lost somewhat. The Gigue movements were mixed, in that some flowed and skipped-along beautifully, whereas others felt a little stilted and almost self-conscious. This is what I mean by the playing being a little too inconsistent.

As always, with Isserlis, one cannot fault tuning or quality of sound. I just wish that perhaps more thought had been given to making each suite a unified musical work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best ever recording of the Bach cello suites since Rostropovich and...
Having read the previous reviews, I can say I agree with most of the positive and respect the not so positive ones. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mikicellist75
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern great
I love it, deep, rich tones and energy , so different from Cassal's version from whence it all comes. Read more
Published 12 months ago by msJbs
2.0 out of 5 stars dire there are better
i played this cd yesterday and found it dire..the playing seemed laboured and unsmoothe and the clonking of the bow put me off.. Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2009 by crocus wood
4.0 out of 5 stars Bach Cello Suites - Isserlis
Fine, flexible playing of wonderful music. However, the timbre of Isserlis' cello is rather thin for my ears. I have heard better
Published on 1 Feb 2009 by Ms. D. M. Neale
5.0 out of 5 stars Steven Isserlis has re-invented Bach's Cello Suites
This is the finest recording of Bach's Cello Suites I have ever heard. Visceral, articulate, masterful phrasing, ornamentation and dynamics. Read more
Published on 8 Oct 2008 by I. Fraser
5.0 out of 5 stars stupendous
I heard the 6th suite in a radio broadcast and immediately wanted more, and when I finally got around to buying these discs I was not disappointed. Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2008 by a nice guy
5.0 out of 5 stars Bach: The Cello Suites
This recording is worth EVERY PENNY!

Even if you're not into 'classical' music GET THESE CD's and be inspired by music that's lasted over 250 years and is still going... Read more
Published on 19 July 2007 by Mr. W. J. Ross
2.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic cello playing, but...
Well, actually I've been following Steven Isserlis from his beginnings; I like very much his recordings, beautiful sound, very musically, etc... Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2007 by Cello23
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