> BACH Cello Suites Barta [KM]: Classical Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cello Suites 1, 2, 3
No. 1 in G major BWV 1007
No. 2 in G major BWV 1008
No. 3 in G major BWV 1009
Jiri Barta, cello
Rec: November 1995, Castle Kozel.
SUPRAPHON SU 3242-1 131 [56.53]



Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cello Suites 4, 5, 6
No. 4 in G major BWV 1010
No. 5 in G major BWV 1011
No. 6 in G major BWV 1012
Jiri Barta, cello
Rec: July - August 1996, Castle Kozel.
SUPRAPHON SU 3242-2 131 [74.27]

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It is a commonplace to say that the very first notes of a disc set the stage for the remainder of the recording, but for music like this, suites for solo cello, it is all the more true. The unique sound of the cello alone is so poignant that the first notes that come out of the silence have a great effect. This recording of Bach’s cello suites is a good example of how important these notes are. Barta’s sound for the prelude of the first suite is soft and round, subtle and free, and his approach can be clearly heard in these first measures. Neither pushing too hard nor letting go too much, he strives to achieve a balance in his playing.

Sample 1: track 1 0’00"

Barta’s phrasing is clear and unambiguous. He plays each melodic section as a separate breath, using noticeable pauses to delineate them. This sounds interesting at times, but in the allemande of the second suite, for example, his playing loses a bit of fluidity because of this. Nevertheless, the overall impression of his playing is certainly one of mellow smoothness.

Sample 2: track 8 0’00

The menuets of the second suite begin with some slightly out of tune playing, and this disturbs, especially after journeying with Barta through the first few movements of this suite which he plays very well. But in the gigue, he seems at odds with the rhythm; he is clearly more comfortable with the slower rhythms of the allemandes and sarabandes than these fast movements. This gigue sounds as though he is trying to fit its rhythm into something different, and it is not successful.

Sample 3: track 12 0’00"

The sound of his cello is very nice, and the recording excellent. This is a very good recording of the first three cello suites, which, in spite of some imperfections, deserves attention. While not the best recording of these works, it is a herald of a long and interesting career by a young cellist.


Disc 2

Unlike Barta’s recording of the first three cello suites by Bach, this disc opens with a totally different tone. Where the first prelude was slow and smooth, the prelude to the 4th suite is a series of rhythmic dances across the strings. Barta, whose playing fits very well with the more sinuous movements of these works, seems to have difficulty negotiating this subtle rhythm. It sounds wooden and unconvincing, and lacks overall focus.

Sample 1: track 1 0’00"

But Barta comes into his own with the second movement of this suite, the allemande, where his phrasing and playing fit perfectly with the smooth music. The same can be said for the other allemandes in these suites, especially the long D major allemande in the 6th suite, which Barta plays almost like a work on its own. His approach here is more romantic and subtle, with delicate phrasing, though his tone is not always perfect.

Sample 2: track 14 0’00

The deceptively simple sarabande of the 5th suite, the only movement in all of these suites with a single melody line throughout, fits perfectly with Barta’s style of playing. He does not rush this movement, and his playing is ideal, though his dynamics lack depth. Nevertheless, one could say that this movement lacks emotion, and is merely played, not performed.

Sample 3: track 10 0’00"

Less convincing than the disc containing the first three cello suites, this is nevertheless a good recording. As for the first disc, this is certainly a herald of a long and interesting career by a young cellist.

Kirk McElhearn

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