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Hello, I am new here and looking forward to these discussions. I love the Bach Cello Suites but at this time I only have them on CD by Mstislav Rostropovich. I love his playing very much, but just wondering what favorite cellist do others recommend for the Suites?
 

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Casals, Starker and Fournier on modern instruments; Bylsma for an interesting historically-informed approach on a Baroque instrument. I love Rostropovich, but his recording of the cello suites (at least the one that I have) isn't really to my liking. The playing is terrific of course but it sounds a little too reverby, distant and overproduced to me.
 

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The word "interpretation" plays a major role in the performance of the Bach Cello Suites, which arguably prove some of the most sublime music ever written. Bach provides few clues in his music (in comparison to later Romantic and Modern, especially, composers) concerning tempos, dynamics, staccatos and rubatos and all that other stuff that guides interpretation, and so performers have a lot of decisions to make. Which, I suggest, is a good thing. It does lead, inevitably, however, to a wide range of concepts that arise during the performance of the cello suites, which explains why each recording is somewhat of a contrast to every other recording, allowing for favorites and I-don't-likes, often from movement to movement or suite to suite. The best one can do is to explore a number of these recordings and attempt to settle into a performance interpretation that pleases, whether it is critically acclaimed or not.

There is a lot to choose from. Some of the good ol' recordings of the past are marred by sound production, while some of the great sounding ones of recent years are simply bland as performances. The good thing is that the music is so good to begin with that it's almost impossible to really ruin a Bach work (at least if the performer has any competence on his/her instrument at all) and thus the route of exploring various recordings is never a waste of time. Did I mention the music is sublime?

Chances are if you stick to top billing performers (rather than chance lesser known names) you'll hear a number of great performances, some to your immediate liking, some less so. I am one of those who loves to explore lesser knowns. Recently I heard the recording of the Suites by Michael Kevin Jones on the EMEC DISCOS label, and I enjoyed the performances greatly.

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Jones plays these on a 1667 Antonio Stradivarius cello. The recordings, from October 2002, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Kirtington Park Room, are well produced and vivid. The playing is superb, and the instrument has a heavenly sound. I have at least a dozen copies of the Cello Suites in my collection, including most of the "highly critically praised" ones, but if I had to live with only the EMEC E-056/7 discs as performed by Michael Kevin Jones, I would not be disappointed.

I will offer one other version, new and must hear. I could also live with only this one.

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Zuill Bailey performing the Bach Cello Suites on Octave Records. Get this if you can. The SACD discs are to die for.

And you'll also notice it is different (in that unique interpretive way) from the Jones version mentioned above. How to choose? How to choose!?

So, best wishes on your own personal journey through these works. There are a lot of ways to spend time less profitably, and perhaps not so many ways to spend it better!
 

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I tend to go for some of the more recent recordings and/or PI:

Jean-Guihen Queryras
Pieter Wispelwey (most recent)
Arnau Tomas
Truls Mørk
Yo-Yo Ma (3rd, "Evolutions")
Alisa Weilerstein
Thomas Demenga
Mario Brunello
Weiland Kuijken
Bruno Cocset
Sergey Malov
Maja Weber
Paolo Beschi
Istvan Vardai
Suren Bagratuni
Sebastian Klinger
André Larent O'Neil
 

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I have over 30 recordings of the Cello Suites, and love many of them. My absolute favorite cellist in these magnificent works is Pieter Wispelwey. He recorded the Suites three times, and all are fine recordings. My favorite of the three is the most recent recording. I was also lucky enough to hear him play them live a few years ago.



Other great recordings include those by Anner Bylsma, Mischa Maisky, Jian Wang, Boris Pergamenschikow and Alisa Weilerstein's recent recording (illustrated above).

I never particularly liked Rostropovich's recording, finding him paradoxically unemotional. I was also less than impressed by Yo Yo Ma's earlier recordings although his most recent is OK (but not great).
 

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Since Casals about 300 sets of cello suites have been made, and more than 100 of these are available to day, even if one has to search dilligently to find some of them, so there is much to choose from. I have heard quite a lot of them, and only a few of them were - what I would call - unsuccesful, but of course my taste also plays a role.

Like Bulldog I find Rostropovich and Maisky too romantic, and this also true of Shafran, Zagorinsky and Vectomov. If there is anything I avoid in these works, it is overdone vibrato.

SanAntone's recommendations are all safe choices, except that I find Weilerstein a bit pretentious and contrieved (the same applies more or less to Emmanuelle Bertrand), and I don't warm to Thomas Demenga.

I'll add Lucia Swarts, Marko Ylönen, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, David Geringas, Colin Carr, Frans Helmerson, Heinrich Schiff, Ralph Kirshbaum, Christoph Stradner, Enrico Dindo and my two countrymen Toke Møldrup and Morten Zeuthen. Also Dmitri Badiarov and Ryo Terakado on violoncello da spalla and Paolo Pandolfo an viola da gamba. And one must have heard Casals at least once. But I could go on for an hour more.
 

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Since Casals about 300 sets of cello suites have been made, and more than 100 of these are available to day, even if one has to search dilligently to find some of them, so there is much to choose from. I have heard quite a lot of them, and only a few of them were - what I would call - unsuccesful, but of course my taste also plays a role.

Like Bulldog I find Rostropovich and Maisky too romantic, and this also true of Shafran, Zagorinsky and Vectomov. If there is anything I avoid in these works, it is overdone vibrato.

SanAntone's recommendations are all safe choices, except that I find Weilerstein a bit pretentious and contrieved (the same applies more or less to Emmanuelle Bertrand), and I don't warm to Thomas Demenga.

I'll add Lucia Swarts, Marko Ylönen, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, David Geringas, Colin Carr, Frans Helmerson, Heinrich Schiff, Ralph Kirshbaum, Christoph Stradner, Enrico Dindo and my two countrymen Toke Møldrup and Morten Zeuthen. Also Dmitri Badiarov and Ryo Terakado on violoncello da spalla and Paolo Pandolfo an viola da gamba. And one must have heard Casals at least once. But I could go on for an hour more.
Which Colin Carr: The live recording from 1998 or the more recent studio release from 2013? I am also glad to see you mention Dmitri Badiarov, Ryo Terakado, and Paolo Pandolfo. I knew about these but could not call them to mind when I posted.
 

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In my earlier post on this topic I mentioned the importance of exploring different versions of the Cello Suites in order to truly discern versions one will favor, for whatever reason.

There are all sorts of reasons for preferences one way or another. So called "purists" listen for one thing or another that often escapes a more "casual" listener, perhaps one not bothered by a touch or romanticism or excessive warmth or tempos that move ahead too quickly or too slowly or too too, whatever.

But exploring pays dividends, as does adventurism, especially when one finds an interpretation, a bit off the main road perhaps, that allows for a refreshing "rehearing" of works one thought one knew well enough. Such is the following recording:

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Here, Edgar Meyer performs the unaccompanied Cello Suites 1, 2, and 5 on Double Bass. The recording was released some 20 years ago or so. I have had a copy in my collection for at least 20 years. I still recall my first hearing of these Suites played by Meyer on his biggest of fiddles. It was a disc I had in constant rotation on my CD deck for weeks. And one I revisit every so often, usually when I'm in the mood for something unusually wonderful and surprising and amazing. Meyer and his big deep fiddle never fail to please.

I won't rank the performances with the masterclass interpretations of the Bach Suites. But they are good. And they are satisfying. And ... you're likely not to forget them once you've heard them plays so expertly on the double bass.
 

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For a marvelous "recent" recording.....

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Just to indicate how much personal taste enters into the matter, I attended a recital where she performed all six. I left before the end. On the other hand, I loved her performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto (in concert with the NY Phil).

I only have a few, but I like Starker (Mercury), Fournier and Bylsma.
 

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Ugh, I hate these threads. Going to have to make room on my shelf now for Queyras. Maybe Weilerstein as well.

My top 2 remain Casals (seamless spontaneity) and Fournier (authoritative artistry), but these recent recordings sound as if the cello is right in your living room. Queyras in particular is a consummate artist whose 2007 recording deserves all its accolades. Weilerstein plays with warm tone and beautiful sensitivity. Wispelwey is different, more clipped. Not my favorite, but interesting.
 
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