Mstislav Rostropovich

Bach: Cello Suites Nos. 1, 4, 5

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Owners of Rostropovich's 1995 set of Bach's cello suites should note that this EMI Classics issue matches the box's first disc and offers nothing different. Rostropovich's interpretations may be considered reverent but idiosyncratic, based as they are on his subjective associations of emotions and spiritual qualities with the musical characters of the suites. This may appeal to listeners who like rapt, mystical readings, though skeptics may find that expression can be elusive in Bach and harder to identify than Rostropovich supposes. Even so, Rostropovich's innate musicianship and sincerity make these performances fairly enjoyable, and one need not take his intentions too seriously. One drawback of the recordings, however, is the resonance of the Basilique Sainte-Madeleine, Vézelay, a live acoustic that covers a few sins of intonation and scratchy bowing, but unforgivably blurs Bach's rhythms and contrapuntal voicings. Its aural halo is a distraction on the CD.

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