JS Bach

BBC Music Magazine - - Instrumental -

Six Cello Suites (arr. for vi­ola)

Kim Kashkashian (vi­ola)

ECM 4817176 134:34 mins (2 discs)

The solo cello suites take on a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter when played on the vi­ola: it’s not just the higher sounds, but a greater light­ness and eas­ier agility.

That doesn’t mean that depth of feel­ing is sac­ri­ficed, espe­cially in per­for­mances as fluid as these. Be­gin­ning with the D mi­nor Suite, the mus­ing Pre­lude shows what to ex­pect as the mu­sic un­folds: a sense of im­pro­vi­sa­tion in the slower move­ments, but never los­ing di­rec­tion. And the dances, even when they in­dulge in rhyth­mic flex­i­bil­ity, al­ways have mo­men­tum and pulse.

Af­ter the solem­nity of the

D mi­nor Suite, the G ma­jor comes across as a hap­pier work. It’s not just the faster tem­pos: the pre­dom­i­nance of ma­jor keys al­lows Kashkashian to use a more trans­par­ent tone.

Even the slower Sara­ban­des project dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters: one plan­gent, the other stately. And, mov­ing through the care­fully or­dered se­quence, each Suite is im­bued with its own per­son­al­ity: the C mi­nor is hope­ful, and the se­cond CD, with the re­main­ing ma­jor key suites, moves from forth­right, through play­ful to con­fi­dently as­sertive, ex­em­pli­fied in the Courante from the D ma­jor Suite.

Through­out, re­peats are dis­creetly or­na­mented, and there’s com­plete tech­ni­cal com­mand, whether in con­trol of colour, bal­ance of chords, phras­ing, dy­nam­ics or vi­brato. For me, it was a voy­age of re­dis­cov­ery, aided by nat­u­rally vivid sound, and (eas­ily over­looked) pre­cisely gauged gaps be­tween move­ments and in­di­vid­ual suites. Paul Grif­fiths’s notes are thought-pro­vok­ing and, even if you have sev­eral ver­sions of the cello orig­i­nals, this is well worth the in­vest­ment. Mar­tin Cot­ton

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Find­ing new colours: Kim Kashkashian plays Bach Suites on vi­ola

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