Johann Sebastian BACH
(1685-1750) Suites for unaccompanied cello
Suite no. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 [16:45]
Suite no. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008 [19.12]
Suite no. 3 in C major, BWV 1009 [21:00]
Suite no. 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010 [23:32]
Suite no. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 [25:26]
Suite no. 6 in D major, BWV 1012 [31:09]
Liner notes (spoken word, English) [11:23]
Liner notes (spoken word, French) [9:03]
Luigi Piovano (cello)
rec. August, 2008 Montepulciano, Italy. ELOQUENTIA AL1021 [80:30 + 78:00]
Luigi Piovano‘s recording of Bach’s Six Suites is a treat for
those who love this composer and this instrument. Too often
the suites are made tedious by hefty, Romantically-derived performances.
Those who find the historically informed performance school
too austere, however, need have no fears about this performance.
It features playing of great beauty and expressiveness, the
product of a very sound technique and a profound musical intelligence.
The Six Suites follow the same structure of a Prelude followed
by dance movements: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue.
Each suite also includes a pair of “new dances” in between the
Sarabande and Gigue; Minuets in Suites nos. 1 and 2, Bourrées
in nos. 3 and 4, and Gavottes in nos. 5 and 6. Although uniform
in structure, emotionally the suites are remarkably diverse,
and form a rich musical tapestry that defies easy description.
Listening to this recording I was reminded of Rembrandt’s self-portraits,
progressing from pride in his worldly success as a young painter,
to the worn and haunted face towards the end of his life. The
Bach Cello suites traverse an equivalent range of emotion in
the composer’s life.
Luigi Piovano is a young Italian cellist who is a member of
the Baroque group Concerto Italiano. He plays nos. 1-5 of the
Suites on a Gofriller of around 1720. The 6th suite
is played on a William Foster (or Forster) III 5 string instrument
that has a more silvery, reedy quality to its top register.
I am guessing he used gut strings from the warmth of his sound,
which is evident from the first track. Although many features
of this recording reflect historical performance practice, this
is no “hair shirt” exercise. Piovano’s tone is extremely attractive,
and full-blooded where appropriate. The beautiful sounds he
achieves are not an end in themselves, however, but are always
at the service of what is going on in the music.
Throughout the dynamics are extremely varied and beautifully
managed. Piovano often begins a phrase quite softly, adding
bow weight and intensity as it develops. Chords are usually
eased into rather than thumped out. Rubato is used occasionally
and tastefully, and ornamentation is rare. Speeds are brisk-ish
but never sound rushed, and Piovano points the rhythms nicely.
One instance that I noted in particular is the Gigue from the
final Suite, where he mixes elegantly stepping rhythms with
rustic-sounding double-stops to bring the cycle to a satisfying
conclusion. His intonation is uniformly excellent.
Some might find Piovano’s tonal range a bit soft in the grain;
he doesn’t play into the string as much as Bylsma, for
example. However - and for me this is a big plus - his sound
does not tire the ear. The recording sounds very natural: the
venue is not named - other than being in Montepulciano - but
one might guess a small church or chapel, as the acoustic is
quite lively. The final two tracks on CD 2 are spoken word versions
of the liner notes, in English and French respectively. Listeners
who do not want to be startled by this breaking into their post-Sixth
Suite reverie are advised to program their CD player accordingly.
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