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Christopher Bunting plays Bach
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Suite No. 1 in G major BWV 1007
Suite No. 2 in D minor BWV 1008
Suite No. 3 in C major BWV 1009
Suite No. 6 in D major BWV 1012
Christopher Bunting (cello)
Record privately in the 1960s
SYMPOSIUM 1338 [71.57]


This is a particularly well-timed release. Christopher Bunting was born in 1924 and next year celebrates his eightieth birthday and these previously unreleased private recordings bear testimony to his profound insight into Bach’s solo Suites. They also bear the impress not only of his studies with Casals but also of his unceasing devotion to the literature and to these works in particular. Bunting studied first with Ivor James, a distinguished player who was cellist of the Menges Quartet, later moving on to Maurice Eisenberg in America. Through him Bunting studied with Casals in Prades, playing in the Festival orchestra where section members included Paul and Maude Tortelier and Nelson Cooke. Though he performed works by Martinů, Henze and Vladimir Vogel he also premiered the Finzi Concerto with Barbirolli in 1955 and the Rawsthorne in 1967 under Sargent. These Bach recordings – the documentation doesn’t disclose whether they were made off-air or in the privacy of Bunting’s own studio – were made some time in the 1960s and one can get a good view of his likely qualities at around the time of the Rawsthorne premiere. He was also the first British cellist to give a radio performance of the Shostakovich First Cello Concerto as well as touring Alexander Tcherepnin’s Twelve Preludes. Not the least of his accomplishments was a radio performance in which he played both the cello and piano parts of the Brahms Op. 38 Cello Sonata; a gift he shared with another superb string playing pianist, Henryk Szeryng.

Bunting was of a generation of British cellists who came after William Pleeth, Thelma Reiss, Antony Pini and Antonia Butler but before Jacqueline du Pré. Bunting was greatly esteemed as a soloist and it was his misfortune that the rise of du Pré led to a wholesale concentration on her. It wasn’t only Bunting – Joan Dickson, Eileen Croxford and Amaryllis Fleming also tended to be undervalued. Dickson taught, as Bunting was later to do throughout his career, but particularly after a spinal injury forced his retirement, whilst Croxford and Fleming formed admirable chamber partnerships.

Joy Finzi once referred to Bunting’s "grand manner" and one understands what she meant when listening to these noble and elevated Bach performances. His tone has great depth and he adopts flexible tempi in Casals’ tradition. The Allemande of the G major flows indelibly whilst the Courante displays great freedom of articulation and the concluding Gigue is admirably buoyant. One admires his expressive reserve in the Prelude of the D minor and the powerfully sustained Sarabande in the same Suite. How superbly one feels the arch and motion of the Allemande of the D major, the sense one always has of being somewhere in the unfolding architecture of the music. Then there is the ebullience of the Gavottes – Bunting is multifaceted.

It’s true that the recording, whilst excellent of its type, lacks definition, also that technically a few things go inevitably awry. Nevertheless this salute is well merited. Bunting’s pedagogic work has made his name universally known but it is salutary to be reminded of the heights to which his music making aspired in these admirable performances.

Jonathan Woolf


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