Amit Peled

Bach: Suites 1-3

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The title of this album explains the concept: Israeli-born cellist Amit Peled offers Bach's first three Suites for solo cello, BWV 1007-1009, played on the actual cello used by Pablo Casals for much of his career. It is a 1733 instrument by Matteo Gofriller, and it was given to Peled directly from the hands of Casals' first wife, Marta Casals Istomin. The instrument, it turns out, sounds gorgeous even if not in the hands of Casals himself. Peled, furthermore, was a student of American cellist Bernard Greenhouse, who was one of the few players to have worked with Casals on an extended basis. All this said, Peled's album is something other than an exercise in historical re-creation. His basic conception of the works is undoubtedly in the Casals tradition, and this is all to the good: the warm, humanistic approach to Bach is not so much in fashion these days, and Peled enters a field where most of his competitors are doing something different. But he does not simply imitate Casals' well-known readings. He applies a good deal of rubato in the preludes, and he breaks up the dance rhythms with sharp cross accents. Sample one of the Courantes, perhaps from one of the first two suites. It's safe to say that if you're looking for performances in the Casals tradition, you'll find what you want here, but there's enough beyond that to make these performances important new statements in the history of these works. One awaits the second volume of Bach, as well as recordings of the other works associated with Casals: the Schubert "Cello Quintet" in C major, perhaps. Highly recommended.

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