OK, are you ready for something completely different? From someone who has already recorded two complete sets of Bach's six suites for solo cello, BWV 1007-1012, no less? Where to begin? Dutch historical-performance specialist Pieter Wispelwey disregards the long performance tradition associated with these six suites, which seem like cousins to Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin but are actually quite different in character (there are no sonatas, for one thing). Even players of the Baroque cello sometimes seem to have Pablo Casals' magisterial recordings in their heads, but Casals is not in the building at all for these readings. They seem to rest on three principles.
This fine recording of Dvorák's Cello Concerto by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey with Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is as generous, honest, and compelling as the music itself. Wispelwey has a rich, ringing tone that can ride over orchestral tutti fortes yet still sound fully present in intimate pianissimos. He also has an elegant technique that can accomplish anything the work asks without calling undue attention to itself. These qualities allow him to lean into the work's powerful drama and aching lyricism without dividing his attention. The commanding Fischer leads the rich-toned Budapest Festival Orchestra in an accompaniment as musically interesting and dramatically significant as the solo part.
Walton's concerto was commissioned by Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, whose reputation as a performer was such that he inspired works by no less than Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Hindemith. Though the concerto was not very well received by critics following its first performance, it is probably the result of Walton's singular aesthetic sensibility and place- perceived as an old-fashioned Romanticism in the post-war period. Wispelwey's performance effortlessly shifts through the strong rhythmic passages and the moments of serenity called for by Walton's composition. The recording also includes three compositions for solo cello: Bloch's Suite no. 1, Ligeti's Sonata for solo cello, and Walton's Passacaglia. The CD is book-ended with Britten's Ciaccona (Cello suite no. 2, op.80) which will clearly establish why Wispelwey is considered one of the foremost Britten interpreters.
The two films on this DVD combine some of the most demanding chamber works ever written. Recorded at the atmospheric Academy of Sciences in Budapest, the Keller Quartet plays a version of Bach’s unfinished masterpiece The Art of the Fugue for string quartet intertwined with works by renowned contemporary composer György Kurtág – a programme that the four Hungarians developed and have successfully performed on international stages. Anner Bylsma, Dutch master cellist and world-renowned as a distinguished interpreter of Bach’s cello music, plays the solo suites. The suites, on which he has also published an authoritative book, count among the most popular baroque chamber works. Anner Bylsma plays the famous Stradivarius “Servais” and the disc was recorded in the beautiful village church St Bartholomew of Dornheim in Thuringia.
Performing regularly throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and teacher, British cellist Colin Carr is a frequent guest at the world’s leading concert halls and festivals. He counts Maurice Gendron and William Pleeth amongst his teachers. In May 2012 he retruned to Wigmore Hall to record Bach’s cello suites, true masterworks regarded as the pinnacle of the repertoire for the instrument. Demonstrating his great technical prowess and mastery, Carr searched deep beneath the richly detailed surface of the six suites and explored their inner workings with great style. His meditative performance and profoundly personal communion with the works of Bach are captured within this recording.