Alban Gerhardt

Bach: The Cello Suites

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German cellist Alban Gerhardt says that his goal in these recordings of Bach's much-performed solo cello suites involved "trying to be as spontaneous and free with...musical ingredients as possible." That gives an idea of the flavor of his performances, which are quite attractive and stand out from among others on the market. There's a lightness to Gerhardt's playing, which is slightly influenced by historically oriented performances but does not give up the warmth of the modern instrument. He doesn't pound the chords created by double- and triple-stopping, and he uses vibrato with sparing but telling effect. The overall result is a reading that fits into the Romantic classification but avoids ponderous Romantic readings. Gerhardt's fast movements are gentle and flowing, and he is at his best in the Sarabandes (try the one in the third suite), which really soar. He doesn't sharply differentiate the suites from each other, which makes you wonder why he found a comprehensive cycle the way to go. But a spirit of genuine exploration -- Gerhardt says that any reading he might record would be only a snapshot, and you believe him -- lends a positive X factor to the performance. So does Hyperion's engineering from the Wyastone Estate concert hall, which is ideally in tune with what Gerhardt is trying to do.

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