Author Topic: Bach Cello Suites  (Read 123594 times)

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Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #600 on: May 17, 2019, 10:31:05 AM »
Do you dismiss Schnabel's Beethoven out of hand because the recording is not very succesful by today's standards?

More bluntly: what would you rather have, the latest SOTA recoridng in terms of sound and venue of Mozart's PC 20, or his own performance of it?

No, I do not dismiss out of hand Schnabel's recordings because of the technical limitations. That doesn't mean I would not want to be informed of the technical limitations before buying a recording. Why wouldn't I want to know? For me it is not so much an issue of technology but an issue of microphone technique. In a recording you are hearing the performance from the perspective of the microphone, and if the microphone is poorly placed or mixed from microphones that create an inconsistent sound stage the result can be unsatisfying to me. If someone told me they could sent the engineering team that made the digital recordings of Stephen Kovacevich's EMI Beethoven cycle back in time to record Schnabel, I'd say no thanks, the shellac discs sound better.

You second question is too divorced from reality for me to hazard an answer.

It's a sign that the reviewer is focused more on the microphone technique than on the performer's artistic vision and s/he can't see the forest because of the trees, as I said in another thread (the obsession for the perfect performance in the perfect sound).

Nevertheless, it is of interest if the trees are all dead. Informed description of microphone technique is one of the few things in a review that can say something objective about the recording, and which I can find useful. The performers 'artistic vision' is almost entirely subjective and a review which primarily treats 'artistic vision' is of no value to me.

When I encounter a review, I find that at least 90% of the useful information in the review is the fact that the recording exists.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 10:34:21 AM by Ghost of Baron Scarpia »

Offline Florestan

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #601 on: May 17, 2019, 10:41:41 AM »
No, I do not dismiss out of hand Schnabel's recordings because of the technical limitations. That doesn't mean I would not want to be informed of the technical limitations before buying a recording. Why wouldn't I want to know? For me it is not so much an issue of technology but an issue of microphone technique. In a recording you are hearing the performance from the perspective of the microphone, and if the microphone is poorly placed or mixed from microphones that create an inconsistent sound stage the result can be unsatisfying to me. If someone told me they could sent the engineering team that made the digital recordings of Stephen Kovacevich's EMI Beethoven cycle back in time to record Schnabel, I'd say no thanks, the shellac discs sound better.

Fair enough. To each his own.

Quote
You second question is too divorced from reality for me to hazard an answer.

Granted. I will hazard an answer, though: I don't know. I might prefer Mozart, or I might not --- and that is my point: prefering this or that performance is ultimately not a matter of technology (this is just rationalization, be honest!) but a matter of "artistic", "subjective" taste.

Quote
When I encounter a review, I find that at least 90% of the useful information in the review is the fact that the recording exists.

I do agree!  :laugh:

EDIT: There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind. - Duke Ellington

What is objective in the above, I wonder?  ;D
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 10:43:18 AM by Florestan »
"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”  --- Victor Hugo

Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #602 on: May 17, 2019, 11:21:38 AM »
Alban Gerhardt plays Bach's cello suites (label Hyperion).

This recording was announced long before its release, setting expectations high - too high IMO.

Gerhardt plays a Matteo Gofriller four stringed cello from 1710. It hardly sounds baroque and has probably been rebuilt and is surely equipped with a modern set up (steel strings, modern bow). He uses the same instrument for all the suites, which means that he plays the high tessitura parts of the sixth suite with "advanced thumb technique", so we do not miss the resulting "singing dog" effect here.

It's only the modern recording technique, which tells me, that this is a new recording. Spiritually Gerhardt is firmly based in the 1950es with all the implications of continual vibrato, old-fashioned end rubato, casual use of dynamic variation. modest ornamentation and repeats which are uninventive exact copies. Particularly unsuccessful is the sarabande of the fifth suite, which is spoilt by too much vibrato giving it a note of sentimentality.

Just got this recording  as posted above, was waiting for it and finally got it and found the time to listen to it - well - Premont's  comments  are accurate  - except  the part where they are negatives! :D  - I don't believe they invalidate the interpretation at all - I am not anti-HIP practices - I am firmly against the idea that they invalidate the (ironically - a HIP approach seems to be considered more modern! :D ) "traditional" approach. Gerhardt is informed by Starker and Fournier while definitely adding a certain strength to the interpretation. 

Interesting that you do not consider exact copies uninventive. However I would consider Gerhardt to belong to a more traditional school than Fournier and Starker, whom I would call preauthentic like e.g. Wolfgang Schneiderhan or Helmut Walcha and Anton Heiller. They removed the most traditional (read: Romantic) traits from their playing and paved the way for the HIP movement.

Quote from: (: premont :)
If one likes this style, the recording may be serviceable.

Quote from: vmartell
This is an interesting idea - one can see it as "well, to each its own", which is certainly reasonable. Or one can see it as dismissive of the traditional style.. Which would be a mistake - not only Gerhardt's is a worthwhile recording showing the strengths of the traditional style, I think Starker and Fournier have to be kept firmly at the top of the Cello Suites pantheon, no matter the style.

Well, I certainly meant "each to his own" but also, that Gerhardt is not much more than serviceable. Much better recordings in traditional style would be Mainardi, Tortellier or Webber e.g..

Usually I do not compare recordings much, but try instead to immerse myself in the individual recordings.

Tiden læger alle sår,
heldigt nok at tiden går.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #603 on: May 17, 2019, 10:56:25 PM »
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Offline Jo498

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #604 on: May 17, 2019, 11:41:16 PM »
I think it is totally fair to be bothered by certain noises on recordings. It is a rather different situation from the concert where there will often also be extraneous noises but for most it is easier to focus during the live experience. But with recordings one listens to many times, maybe with headphones, these noises will not be transient but one will almost anticipate them.
I still remember that my first record of the Eroica had a scratch in one of the fugal sections of the finale and many times when I listen to that passage I recall that and almost expect the click...
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #605 on: May 17, 2019, 11:48:04 PM »
I don't see what's wrong with a reviewer mentioning that breathing is audible. If you can hear the performer breathing it is a sign that the microphone technique has disproportionately emphasized it. People are free to decide for themselves if that is an issue.

I agree that the reviewer's condescending mention of "labored breathing" on that Gaillard release is idiotic.

It's a sign that the reviewer is focused more on the microphone technique than on the performer's artistic vision and s/he can't see the forest because of the trees, as I said in another thread (the obsession for the perfect performance in the perfect sound).

I take it as a sign that the reviewer was distracted by the come-to-bed image of La Gaillard.


Offline aukhawk

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #606 on: September 18, 2019, 08:57:10 AM »
From the new releases thread:


Very well recorded, with the texture of the bow on the strings captured beautifully. The performance give an initial impression of being thoughtful and expressive.
I enjoy particularly his tasteful and imaginative variations in the repeats.

This is not for everybody.
Don't get me wrong - to ears jaded from too much time spent with the Cello Suites, this is a refreshing listen. 
But don't expect Galligioni to play the same notes that everybody else does.   :-X  As well as quite a lot of ornamentation and decoration, he also sometimes improvises around the line like a jazz soloist, not playing the actual notes at all, just some of the implied ones all round and about.  For example, in the Gigue of Suite 3. 
Also, he sometimes takes Bach's skeletonising of the music even further, by playing fewer notes in more space.  A kind of anti-ornamentation.  He does this for example in the Courante of Suite 2, initially laying out a 'halved' version of the music then 'doubling' to the more usual rendition for the repeats.  Again in the 2nd Bourree of Suite 3.
Only Suites 1-3 seem to be available so far - I look forward to 4-6 in due course.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #607 on: September 18, 2019, 09:23:39 AM »
You can read his apology here

http://frabernardo.com/?portfolio=bach-a-violoncello-solo-chapter-1-francesco-galligioni#tab-id-3

He suggests that the style came partly out of discussions with keyboard players. Presumably the anti-ornamentation (which seems obvious now but I must admit I didn't notice it!) is an example of "when Bach’s writing is so complex that it leaves no room for embellishments, I have tried to find the simplest idea underlying such beauty."
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 12:33:30 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #608 on: September 18, 2019, 11:34:29 PM »
An interesting read, thankyou.  Can't argue with his wish to re-think the music in such a crowded field.

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #609 on: December 17, 2019, 02:53:15 AM »
End-of-decade summary

In this round-up I'm generally concentrating on recordings from the last 30 years, and generally excluding any non-cello recordings (saxophone, marimba etc) although some of these may be worthy of mention elsewhere in the thread.  I'm also not mentioning part-sets.

We did a blind comparison starting in early 2015 which included several of the most highly-regarded modern recordings up to that point.  The process seemed to gravitate towards 'safe' recordings, leading to a rather dull final round!  I'll re-state those results first and then go on to list some others including several noteworthy recordings that have appeared since that date.  It won't be a complete survey - not anything like.  I hope others can fill in some gaps.

Blind comparison results (2015):
https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,23936.msg866371.html#msg866371
7 (of 30) who didn't impress, scoring quite badly before being eliminated:
Janos Starker, Pieter Wispelwey (3rd recording), Mstislav Rostropovich, Lynn Harrell, Anner Bylsma (2nd), Steven Isserliss, Isang Enders
20th= scoring rather better but still knocked out:
Winona Zelenka, Maurice Gendron, Bruno Cocset, Paul Tortelier
18= Yo-Yo Ma, Pablo Casals (Pristine remaster)
Some of the biggest names falling in round 1.  4 more who fell in the 2nd round with lowish scores:
Anner Bylsma (1st), Jaap ter Linden, Ophélie Gaillard (2nd), Truls Mørk
3 who scored quite well but still didn't progress from round 2:
Patricia McCarty (viola), Vito Paternoster, Paolo Beschi

Then the final 10:
10  Paolo Pandolfo (viola da gamba)
9   Angela East
8   Alexander Kniazev
7   Pierre Fournier
4=  Boris Pergamenschikow, Heinrich Schiff (EMI)

Leaving these four finalists:
The following attached comments are from the blind listening panel members at the time:
4=   Dmitry Badiarov (cello da spalla) (Ramee)
"Lithe, in part because of the acoustic. Interesting touch and interesting sound."
The following two were placed 3rd and 2nd but on reflection I felt that equal 2nd would be fairer:
2=  Jean-Guihen Queyras (Harmonia Mundi)
"there's an old-fashioned feel to the playing ... I suspect it will not appeal to HIPsters"
"There's a depth and a heaviness to the sound"


2=  Gavriel Lipkind (own label)
"a performance of great gentleness, tenderness, sensitivity"
"Exclamation mark at the end. Not every-day Bach, but special"



1   Arnau Tomàs (Aglae) (this was a very clear unarguable 1st place, 78% vs 57% for Lipkind, 50% for Queyras)
"perhaps a certain self-consciousness or fussiness in the performance"
"the breathing here reaches the point of distraction"
"this feels like a confession, exultant but with all kinds of shadows around it"



Tomàs is hard to find as a CD, but is available from Amazon as downloads, or you can find him on Spotify (other streaming services are available, or so I've heard).  It's a finely-recorded, very middle-of-the-road version, I would say almost bland to a fault - but make no mistake, the hitherto unknown Tomàs won 3 of the four rounds in this blind listening, and was 2nd in the other one, and in the final (Suite No.5) the other three didn't lay a glove on him.  There was no fluke or accident about this.  I would suggest that Queyras (by contrast a GMG favourite) treads similar ground.  Lipkind by contrast comes with a bit of a health warning - I really like him, but even I had to acquire the taste, bit by bit.  He's quite extreme with his ornamentation.

Other recordings I could have considereed for this comparison but didn't:
Pieter Wispelwey 1 and 2, more Yo-Yo Ma, Weiland Kuijken, Richard Tunnicliffe
Sara Sant'Ambrogio,
 
Not good - bludgeoning playing is about as subtle as her sleeve images.

Ralph Kirschbaum

A bit old-fashioned but I found a lot to like in this version.

Roel Dieltiens (2nd)

A bit too reverbrant but otherwise I really like this set - a sort of dialed-back version of Lipkind.

Some recent releases that I like:
Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann

I really liked this the first time I listened to it.  On repeated listening slightly less so - but only because she treads a middle path, and I enjoy the extremes a bit more. 
But if I had to choose only one version for a desert island, this would be on my shortlist.

Mauro Valli

I have this one and like it.  He inserts a preface to each Cello Suite in the form of a Ricercar by Domenico Gabrielli - these are quite substantial pieces, up to 11 minutes long in one case, and musically they fit right in as far as I'm concerned.  The total effect is to expand what would usually be a 2-CD set of solo cello music, to 3 CDs.

Oreste de Tommaso

Deep mahogany sound.  May be hard to find.

Tanja Tetzlaff

I remember having a mixed reaction to this one, must listen again.

I'll just put a few more out there. I've either not heard these at all, or only sampled them.

Hidemi Suzuki


Matt Haimovitz


Marc Coppey


Kivie Cahn-Lipman


Fransesco Galligioni


Viola de Hoog


David Watkin


Thomas Demenga


Sergei Istomin


Emmanuelle Bertrand


Marko Ylönen


Xenia Jankovic


Natalia Khoma


Alban Gerhardt


Lucia Swarts
« Last Edit: December 17, 2019, 03:05:13 AM by aukhawk »

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #610 on: December 18, 2019, 03:20:13 AM »
I've just watched Bruno Cocset play the 4th Suite on the All of Bach website.  Recommended, and I think better sounding than his CD. 
https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1010/

The two attached interviews are interesting too - he mentions how in this suite it doesn't fall easily under the fingers and the hand is spread unnaturally and there are few open strings, and he feels he has to use extra pressure - and you can see it in the video, he must be able to crack walnuts with those fingers!

Each suite on this site features a different cellist, I'll be checking out Hidemi Suzuki playing the 5th next.
https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1011/

Offline San Antone

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Re: Bach Cello Suites
« Reply #611 on: December 18, 2019, 03:33:43 AM »
I've just watched Bruno Cocset play the 4th Suite on the All of Bach website.  Recommended, and I think better sounding than his CD. 
https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1010/

The two attached interviews are interesting too - he mentions how in this suite it doesn't fall easily under the fingers and the hand is spread unnaturally and there are few open strings, and he feels he has to use extra pressure - and you can see it in the video, he must be able to crack walnuts with those fingers!

Each suite on this site features a different cellist, I'll be checking out Hidemi Suzuki playing the 5th next.
https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1011/

I am watching/listening to Steuart Pincombe play Suite No. 2 in d minor.  This site looks to be excellent.  Thanks for posting about it.