Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites

Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites

4.8 5
by Yo-Yo Ma
     
 
When Yo-Yo Ma made his first recording of J. S. Bach's six suites for solo cello in 1982, he was already a classical celebrity but not yet the superstar he would soon become. This recording, in fact, was one of the key steps in his rise to the top: Not only did it earn the first of his long list of Grammy Awards, but on a less tangible level,

Overview

When Yo-Yo Ma made his first recording of J. S. Bach's six suites for solo cello in 1982, he was already a classical celebrity but not yet the superstar he would soon become. This recording, in fact, was one of the key steps in his rise to the top: Not only did it earn the first of his long list of Grammy Awards, but on a less tangible level, like Glenn Gould's "Goldberg" Variations in the 1950s, Ma's Bach was the one classical LP everyone seemed to own in the '80s. It's no less inspiring now than it was two decades ago, partly because it's like a crucible for all the praiseworthy qualities that have marked this musician's work since that time: the soulful intensity of the Preludes and Sarabandes, the dark beauty of the Allemandes, the graceful lyricism of some Menuetts and Gigues -- and the propulsive rhythmic drive of others -- and the warmth and richness of Ma's tone throughout. Youthfully vibrant yet fully mature in their carefully considered approach to every detail of phrasing and expression, these performances set a high benchmark for modern cello playing, just as earlier recordings of the Bach suites by Casals and Fournier had done in their own time. Ma made a second recording of the suites in the late '90s, which became the soundtrack to a six-part film series -- and considering how central this music has been in his career, no one should be surprised if he returns to it again in the future. But this set remains irreplaceable, especially in its new midprice reissue in Sony's Great Performances series.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Yo-Yo Ma recorded J.S. Bach's "Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites" on two occasions, first for release on LP in 1983, then again in 1997 on CD. It is the 1983 recording that is presented in Sony's Great Performances line, and the original digital recordings have been processed through direct stream digital to enhance the cello's sound with greater warmth and presence. Ma's readings of Bach are fairly liberal in rhythm and phrasing, and are decidedly more intuitive than analytical, with plenty of rubato and elongation of lines to suggest something like a free Romantic interpretation, far from any Baroque period re-creation. For some listeners who are fans of historically informed or authentic performances of Bach, this may be a stumbling block; but for most, Ma's expressive playing will seem satisfactory and quite enjoyable, if not exactly revelatory. There is a pensive quality to these performances that will strike some listeners as introspective and probing, while others may find them a bit self-indulgent and studied; either way, Ma falls short of ecstatic communion with the music and delivers a technically polished and intelligent performance that has grace and elegance, if not the deepest emotions or visionary heights. Competing with the magnificent recordings by Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, and Mstislav Rostropovich, this set can't be regarded as the last word in Bach's "Cello Suites"; however, it has held its own for many listeners over the years, and it deserves its place in Sony's valued reissue series.
BBC Music Magazine - Michael Jameson
Ma’s earlier traversal brings direct, unfussy modernist interpretations. They’re muscular, crisply etched performances.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/06/2006
Label:
Imports
UPC:
0828767875125
catalogNumber:
951725

Related Subjects

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Suite for solo cello No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007

    1. Prélude  (02:31)
    2. Allemande  (03:47)
    3. Courante  (02:26)
    4. Sarabande  (02:56)
    5. Menuett  (03:05)
    6. Gigue  (01:49)
  2. Suite for solo cello No. 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010

    1. Prélude  (04:50)
    2. Allemande  (03:49)
    3. Courante  (03:42)
    4. Sarabande  (04:31)
    5. Bourrée  (05:04)
    6. Gigue  (02:35)
  3. Suite for solo cello No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011

    1. Prélude  (06:18)
    2. Allemande  (05:22)
    3. Courante  (01:56)
    4. Sarabande  (03:18)
    5. Gavotte  (04:15)
    6. Gigue  (02:34)

Disc 2

  1. Suite for solo cello No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008

    1. Prélude  (04:03)
    2. Allemande  (03:10)
    3. Courante  (01:48)
    4. Sarabande  (04:42)
    5. Menuett  (03:00)
    6. Gigue  (02:18)
  2. Suite for solo cello No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009

    1. Prélude  (03:14)
    2. Allemande  (03:35)
    3. Courante  (02:27)
    4. Sarabande  (03:43)
    5. Bourrée  (03:23)
    6. Gigue  (03:07)
  3. Suite for solo cello No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012

    1. Prélude  (04:11)
    2. Allemande  (07:01)
    3. Courante  (03:44)
    4. Sarabande  (04:30)
    5. Gavotte  (03:28)
    6. Gigue  (03:54)

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6 Unaccompanied Cello Suites: Great Performances (Yo-Yo Ma / Bach) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an intermediate cellist myself, I very much admire Yo-yo-ma for his love of the cello and the spirit he puts into his performance. He played in my town on 9/11/2001, and he chose beautiful pieces to play in memory of those we lost. His rendition of the Bach Cello suites is stunning. Having played a couple of them myself, I know they are difficult, but also very enjoyable to play. They are equally wonderful to hear, especially from a world class artist. Five stars to Yo-yo-ma and his performance of the suites!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Five stars to Yo-yo-ma and his performance of the suites!
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