Bach's cello suites are arguably the greatest works
ever written for solo cello. Recorded by any cellist worth his salt,
these works contain some of the most poignant and emotional music Bach
ever wrote. John Friesen performs these works on a very attractive-sounding
instrument, which has a deep, rich bass, and wonderful resonance. This
is clearly a "big" sound - undoubtedly not a baroque instrument
(no information is given in the notes), but one that is tastefully recorded.
Each of these suites opens with a prelude that should
be improvisatory in nature. But Friesen seems a bit too stuck in the
rhythm of the score, and plays these preludes far too strictly - the
notes all seem to be played on the beat; there is no freedom here. He
seems much freer in the allemandes and sarabandes, where one can hear
a certain amount of emotion comes through, but at times, such as in
the allemande of the 3rd suite, his tone is off occasionally.
While Friesen shows more control in the faster movements,
such as the courantes and gigues, there is still an overall lack of
flexibility that prevents the music from truly developing.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of direction in this
recording. The tempi are too often wooden and rigid, the bowing sounds
forced, and the music seems to be hidden behind the notes. There is
little to be said for this disc, and listeners who want to discover
these works would be much better off listening to such brilliant performances
as those of Anner Bylsma or Peter Wispelwey.