I had tried to like this music - all the pundits and musicians told me I should, and I could hear something in most recordings, but there always seemed to be something missing; some spark of life, deftness of touch, some particular arc of beauty. A cellist friend recommended Tortelier's recording from the 80s - I was listening to a modern recording by Truls Mørk which at first fascinated me. But after a few listens, both he and Tortelier seemed to me to fall into a trap of turgid austerity, an almost furious determination to 'be serious' and deny any lightness or light in the music.
Schiff's performances of the cello suites however achieve an almost miraculous vitality. The music is conceived true to its sources - as a series of dances and laments, a folk-based approach. I cannot enthuse too much about this recording - this is the one! Listen and hear Bach's music come to life. The only other recording I still listen to is Pablo Casals' from the 1930s - sonically a bit of a leap of faith at this point in recorded sound history, but the music is true and not laboured. Schiff has it for me, though - his lightness and tone are extraordinary.
The Bach Suites for Cello are a life's companion and every collection should have one recording or more. Schiff is unsurpassed, taking elegance and depth from the "great" players such as Casals and Tortelier, he adds the rythmic awareness of period practice and produces readings of absolute beauty. Yes, the first movement of the first is rather fast if you are used to the dirge-like approach of the old school, but take it with the other movements and it works - brilliantly.
I hadn't heard of Heinrich Schiff before I read a few reviews about this disc on some music websites, and I was left with the common belief that Yo-Yo Ma and Rostropovich were the only 2 cellist when it came down to Bach's suites.
Well it really isn't the case. This is a fresh new way of playing (to my ear anyway), and if you're looking for a different angle to Bach, this is definitely a good buy.