As a child, Antoine Tamestit studied the violin, but at age 10, he fell in love with the six unaccompanied Cello Suites of J.S. Bach and immediately wanted to switch to the cello. His teacher advised him that playing that instrument would involve learning a completely new technique, so he was allowed to switch instead to the viola. Thus, Tamestit was able to play the suites as arranged for his present instrument, and because the viola has the tuning of C-G-D-A, Bach's originals have been transposed up an octave. This 2012 recording of three of the suites, BWV 1007, 1009, and 1011, is presumably the first of two discs, creating anticipation for disc two, for Tamestit's interpretations are outstanding and promise to make the complete set required listening. He has been acclaimed as one of the finest violists in the world, and his lively tempos and light articulation reveal his profound understanding of the music. The dance impulse is ever-present in these suites, which have a greater ease of movement and flow at the higher transposition. Additionally, Tamestit plays the Stradivarius "Mahler" viola from 1672 with a modern Baroque-style bow, which gives his performances a period sound that is often absent from cello interpretations. And while there is no attested version for viola from Bach's hand, his predilection for arranging his works for various instruments makes these transcriptions utterly appropriate. Naïve's recording is clean and vibrant with natural presence, so Tamestit's playing is heard to best advantage.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007|
|Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009|
|Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011|