J. S. Bach: Suites for Solo Cello.Volume 1. Suites 1-3 (2 CDs) (Joel Becktell)

J. S. Bach: Suites for Solo Cello.Volume 1. Suites 1-3 (2 CDs) (Joel Becktell)

24.99

Acclaimed cellist Joel Becktell presents two versions of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites 1-3, one performed on baroque cello and the other on the modern cello. Less a “compare and contrast” than a “meeting of the minds,” the two performances reflect Becktell’s conviction that modern instruments need not preclude period-style inspiration. Both versions present the Suites in lively, nuanced, highly personal performances, with the cellos’ tonal ranges – from intimate to rollicking – beautifully captured by Blue Griffin. Becktell’s performances breathe new life into these 300-year-old masterpieces.

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Disc 1: BAROQUE CELLO
Suite #1 in G Major for Solo Cello, BWV 1007
1. Prelude
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Sarabande
5. Menuets I & II
6. Gigue
Suite #2 in d minor for Solo Cello, BWV 1008
7. Prelude
8. Allemande
9. Courante
10. Sarabande
11. Menuets I & II
12. Gigue
Suite #3 in C Major for Solo Cello, BWV 1009
13. Prelude
14. Allemande
15. Courante
16. Sarabande
17. Bourées I & II
18. Gigue
Disc 1: MODERN CELLO
Suite #1 in G Major for Solo Cello, BWV 1007
1. Prelude
2. Allemande
3. Courante
4. Sarabande
5. Menuets I & II
6. Gigue
Suite #2 in d minor for Solo Cello, BWV 1008
7. Prelude
8. Allemande
9. Courante
10. Sarabande
11. Menuets I & II
12. Gigue
Suite #3 in C Major for Solo Cello, BWV 1009
13. Prelude
14. Allemande
15. Courante
16. Sarabande
17. Bourées I & II
18. Gigue
 

REVIEWS

ClassicsToday.com

Artistic Quality - 8

Sound Quality - 9

Baroque cello or modern cello in the Bach Suites? Why not both? Joel Becktell has recorded a double album featuring two performances of the first three suites, one on Baroque cello, the other on a modern instrument. Aside from Baroque cello’s lower tuning and more muted sonority, the interpretations prove quite similar between the two versions. Becktell obviously has worked out his phrasings, tempos, dynamics, and accentuation down to the last detail.

Aside from his superb technique, Becktell usually conveys an understated yet cogent sense of the music’s dance origins, yet also shapes phrases so that they don’t fall into square patterns. You particularly notice this in the G major Courante’s cross rhythms, the D minor Allemande’s melodic ebb and flow, and the C major Prelude’s proportioned flexibility. The C major Sarabande stands out in both readings for how Becktell controls and sustains the slow moving phrases with the most discreet vibrato possible.

Sometimes a studied air permeates Becknell’s music making, as in the tiny breath pauses between phrases in the C major Bourées, or the slightly protracted long notes in the D minor Courante and Menuets. Whatever Becktell may lack in spontaneity is compensated by the cellist’s astute harmonic awareness and feeling for architecture. His intelligent, intimately scaled, and beautifully engineered readings augur well for Volume 2 of this “double cycle”.

-Jed Distler