Many years ago, when
Janos Starker was much younger, he was
reputed to have stated during an interview
that he was "the best cellist in
the world." I am sure he did not
win too many admirers from this, but
he was at least Dorati’s choice for
first cello in his Dallas Symphony orchestra,
and later Reiner’s choice for the same
position at the Metropolitan Opera.
When Reiner moved to Chicago to take
up his position there Starker was his
choice again for leader of the cello
section in the Chicago Symphony.
Before moving to the
U.S.A., Starker had already recorded
the six cello suites of J.S. Bach for
Walter Legge which was released on EMI,
(formerly available on EMI 568485-2).
These current performances
were recorded for Wilma Fine in late
1965 and he recorded a third set for
RCA in 1972. The Mercury recordings
are considered by many to be his best,
and now they have been released in SACD
format, there should be no reason at
all why lovers of fine cello playing
should not snap them up. I am sure that
the Universal deletion axe will fall
on them in the not too distant future.
As usual, the left, right and centre
tracks are presented in that layout
on the surround disc. Also, as before,
there is no difference between the CD
version and the earlier two channel
All six suites are
very distinguished performances with
Starker’s seriousness in this music
showing through. The fast dances are
played with a repressed humour, not
at all like the overt virtuosity of
an artist such as Piatigorsky, for example.
The first movements of the Suites (No.
6 in particular) have a wonderful warmth
of feeling about them which makes for
a very satisfying listening experience.
The Cello Suites are
written to a semi-standard format, each
having a Praeludium, followed by an
Allemande, Courante and Sarabande. The
Suites all end with a Gigue, and before
that a Menuet (1, 2), Bourrée
(Nos, 3, 4), or Gavotte (Nos. 5, 6).
is never in doubt and it is all brought
to the aid of the music, whilst the
Mercury recording captures every nuance
of the soloist’s playing. So often in
solo string recordings the proceedings
are ruined by either loud sniffs and
other nasal sounds together with squeaks
and slides of fingers on strings. There
is a minimum of this here, and whilst
you are aware of the mechanics of the
playing, their presence is so small
that listening pleasure is not affected.
Janos Starker is joined
by Gyorgy Sebok for the two Cello Sonatas
(BWV1027 and 1028), and although these
are not ‘correct’ by period performance
standards (should be a harpsichord)
there is not one criticism I would level
at this standard of chamber playing.
It is as though each musician understands
completely what the other wants, and
is able to deliver this exactly.