The cello is not my own instrument, so I am in the business of owning one or two good versions of the Bach suites, not the entire selection on offer. After reading a good deal of comment from those who know, or purport to know, the field more thoroughly, I'm forming the impression that whether by luck or by instinct the versions I have are as good as, and maybe better than, any others. The judgment of my own ears suggests that this is likely anyway. What counts as particularly good and recommendable for me is what I shall try to explain.
My LP version for many years has been from Fournier - relaxed, urbane and thoughtful. I have seen his accounts characterised as being 'romantic', and while he deploys a fair amount of expressive rhythmic inflexion I would not go quite so far in my own description. Bach's lyric gift was as romantic as Brahms's at times, but the cello suites do not show that side of him to any great extent, and no interpreter, however eminent, should try to express what is not really there. What the cello suites do contain is on the one hand pure abstract musical pattern-weaving in their preludes, and for the rest dance-music albeit of great beauty and dignity. It would be an outrage to treat these masterpieces roughly, but on the other hand there is a strong no-nonsense streak in Bach's personality and I take very favourably to the way Gendron suggests this. The very first prelude shows this characteristic right away (to ears attuned to Fournier), and in general Gendron is disposed to take the fast or fastish dance-pieces, (all except the sarabandes), a tad faster and the sarabandes on the other hand a trifle slower. This has an 'authentic' ring to me. We do not know a lot about the composer other than his actual music, but there seems to be a fairly credible tradition that he had a predilection for brisk speeds. One way or the other, Gendron's way of going about these suites has a liveliness and vigour that appeals to me strongly.
Another factor that counts enormously in this set's favour is the simply brilliant recorded quality - resonant, roomy, rich and as if the player were right there in one's presence. This would have been wasted on indifferent sound from the soloist, but no danger of that from Gendron. His tone is heavenly and it gets the recording it deserves and demands.
What a pleasure it is to be able to report a first-class liner-note for once. I refer to the English liner-note. In the finest EU mode there is a note in English, in German, in French and in Italian - but they are all different notes by different authors! The English offering, by Derek Jole, is well-written and informative, saving me the trouble of labouring through any of the others. He takes us through the early history of the cello, and it's worth giving a thumbnail summary of that here. The 'serious' low string instrument in Bach's time had been the viola da gamba, but its lack of power and volume was becoming a problem, and various strange contraptions strutted their 15 minutes on the stage before taking a voyage down the waters of Lethe. The cello was already around but mainly as a dull continuo instrument left to duffers and amateurs. The stars were favourable, and Bach made the acquaintance of Christian Linike, was persuaded to write one or two suites, was encouraged by the result in performance, and went on to compose all six, getting more adventurous as he went along. Bach did not of course lose his innate conservatism, and except for the sixth suite the cello is confined to its lower registers, a treatment later replicated in the first cello sonata of Brahms (this point being predictably and comprehensively lost on Mr Peter Latham in his transcendentally unperceptive book on that composer). In #6 we hear a trace of one of the vanished oddities, a 5-stringed 'cello piccolo'.
The six suites are all to a common 6-movement format, a prelude followed by 5 dance numbers, always in the same sequence. The only variation is in the fifth movement, which is variously minuet, bourree or gavotte. A pleasant touch of imagination has been shown in the production by putting one example of each type on to each disc rather than following the numerical order. Composer and interpreter supply a certain amount more of that commodity in addition. These suites are great art, this is a great rendition in my view, and however strong the rest of the field is I suggest that this version should be a serious contender in anyone's selection.
on 20 September 2012
I have recordings of the Bach Cello suites by Rostropovitch, Tortelier, Bylsma, Maisky and others, but this recording by Maurice Gendron stands out from all of them. The cello suites generally require more concentration by the listener than more forthright music but, if you care for the music, Gendron's playing will reward you with outstanding lyricism and an unwavering ability to carve great cathedrals of sound from just a single musical line. If you only wanted a single version of the cello suites, this is the artist that I would recommend.
Bach and his music needs no introduction as he has become a household name in many regards. Bach was one of the most prolific composers of the Baroque era and wrote several works for various instruments, orchestral and chamber music, chorales, concertos, religious music etc. His cello suites rank amongst his most popular and best works
The cello is one of my favourite instruments. The second largest member of the violin family tuned an octave below the Viola. It serves as a melodic and bass instrument in chamber and orchestral works. Bach's cello suites is one of the most popular and best works written for the cello. I have come across several renditions of this work, but the rendition by Maurice Gendron is considered one of the best if not the best version.
Maurice Gendron was a French cellist and teacher and widely considered one of the best cellists of the twentieth century. His rendition of Bach's cello suites is considered one of the best if not the best, -arguably so for there many other famous cellist who have recorded this work- Rostroprovich, Yo Yo Ma, Harrell etc. This recording here is clear, smooth and elegant, with good tonal quality. It is simply a work of art and has stood the test of time. This 2 CD set contains the digitally re-mastered version of this famous 1964 recording. I recommend.
I had to play one of these pieces when I was playing double bass. That was way, way back when I was 16 and stupid. I couldn't really play it, and although I squeaked past and just about got the qualification, this piece,or set of pieces completely passed me by.
You have GOT to be kidding. Flash onto twenty years later, this time in Australia, in a car park at a University. Supposed to be at a physics lecture, but instead, I'm listening in a state of catatonic wonder at these pieces. As a matter of fact, played by Maurice Gendron. I did NOT go to those lectures. I DID go nuts, thumping the roof of the car, leaned back, legs over the dashboard, grinning like an idiot, righteously and irrationally happy, realising at long last what those yellowed pages really held, and what I had missed only 27 inches from my nose.
The secret to understanding Bach is to try to imagine what you do if you are dead set on conveying killer doses of joy, but you have to keep your clothes ON, and you are trying to do this with people hundreds of years into to the future. So there you go - you invent some medium in which something of a sense of universal human essence can fit, you develop it, spend years getting it right, then do this stuff. My gosh, does it work. This has got beautiful lullabies, love songs, dances specifically designed for courtly love, and also exercises in nothing but wit and imagination but chiefly joy, which he had a great deal of and was very good at dishing out...
I reckon he's still doing this somewhere or other, but this is pretty good for starters, and I would recommend it to anyone. But don't listen to this in the car, you know, you might just get a bit too excited...
on 6 March 2002
The main problem with these collections is that they are all very much of a muchness. Unfortunately there is just not enough going on in Bach's cello suites to rivet the attention. If you listen to it from one end to the other you may find that you can't remember anything you've heard.
Having said that, the suites are easy enough listening, and they sound nice on the ear. These recordings are just not very exciting. But they are probably as good as you'll get with these pieces. For serious Bach collectors only.