Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Six Suites for Solo Cello (1720) [128:20]
No. 1 in G BWV1007 [15:53]
No. 2 in D minor BWV1008 [19:00]
No. 3 in C major BWV 1009 [20:19]
No. 4 in E flat Major, BWV 1010 [23:09]
No. 5 in C minor BWV1011 [22:38]
No. 6 in D major BWV 1012 [27:10]
Bruno Cocset (cello - cellos by Charles Riché)
rec. 2001, Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris
ALPHA CLASSICS 301 [55:12 + 73:08]

This is a re-issue of a 2001 recording which was distinguished by the fact that Bruno Cocset played four different cellos which were replicas of original instruments made by luthier Charles Riché. They have identifiably different “voices” and do indeed complement the suites for which they are employed. According to both Casals and Rostropovich, the first and fifth suites are generally identified with light and dark respectively and the cello replicating an instrument made by Gasparo Da Salò in 1600 has a round, warm, buzzing sound suggesting geniality. The second and fourth suites are in turn associated with sorrow and majesty; the instrument made after a 1734 Guarneri has a more nasal, humming quality, while the 1703 Stradivari has a deep, masculine resonance ideally suited to the heroic brilliance of No. 3. The 1600 Amati has a light, slightly wiry tone, apt for the sunlit idyll of No.6.

Most listeners will have decided that they prefer these suites played either on an authentic instrument or a modern cello; I am in the latter camp and most enjoy Casals, Fournier, Tortelier, Rostropovich, Starker et al, playing in a more Romantic style, but such is the nature of this music that it responds to a variety of treatments and is certainly well served by Cocset here. His tempi are by no means extreme and although he honours the Baroque sensibility by correctly emphasising both the theatrical and the dancing quality of these suites, he is also capable of generating a rapt and meditative ambiance. The deliberate lack of vibrato sometimes rather enervates the impact of the music; compensation lies in the focused poise of Cocset’s line.

However, there are corollary problems of a technical rather than and aesthetic nature. First, presumably because the instruments he plays are more muted and less resonant of tone than a modern cello, the microphones have been positioned very closely; as such, you hear every clunk, click and thump on the fingerboard and Cocset’s breathing, both when he anticipates a phrase and through it, is very obtrusive. This is accentuated by the resonant acoustic of the chapel and will represent a real obstacle to the enjoyment of some; others will be able to overlook it. I have to say that I find it distracting. It is also true that there are some slight slips in articulation which could grate on repeated listening.

The digipack packaging is attractive and the notes are stimulating, although I fail to see the relevance of the photograph taken in Moscow forming the cover artwork.

I am not familiar with other period recordings by such as ter Linden, Wispelwey and Bylsma but I suggest that this recording is an interesting and diverting introduction to anyone wishing to hear Bach played in historically informed and aware style.
Ralph Moore

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