David Watkin

Bach: Cello Suites

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This is said to be the last recording by British cellist David Watkin, who is moving to conducting due to a muscle problem. It should deeply satisfy the player's British fan base and go beyond that, for it's a fine recording of the much-played Bach Suites for solo cello. The unusual historical instruments will get attention: a 1660 instrument by Francesco Ruggieri, and, for the Suite No. 6 in D major for solo cello, BWV 1012, an extremely rare five-string Amati cello from 1600. The set is worth the time and money for the utter strangeness (and Watkin's confidence in strange surroundings) of this performance, which has the flavor of some arcane yet deeply human wisdom imparted from the distant past. The rest of the suites are also more of the 17th century than of the 18th: Watkin's playing is rhetorical, as if the cello was embodying utterances in some hidden language. It is seemingly spontaneous yet well controlled, and it is intimate in a way that big concert-hall performance cannot be. There are some unusual tempos in the set, all backed up by reasonable even if not definitive evidence, but the overall conception is the most important novelty. The Resonus label backs Watkin up with engineering in a small chapel that fits the slightly antique tone. If this is Watkin's swan song on the cello, it's a fine one.

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