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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cello Suites: No. 1 [18:08]; No. 2 [21:13]; No. 3 [22:01]; No. 4 [24:16]; No. 5 [28:13]; No. 6 [33:04]
Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b. 1931)
Prelude [3:07]
Györgi KURTÁG (b. 1926)
Message-consolation [2:59]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Per Slava [5:39]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Tema Sacher [1:13]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Klingende Buchstaben [5:24]
Improvisations on electric cello. Constant: One [1:49]; Two [4:06]; Three [5:17]; Distant: One [3:53]; Two [4:38]; Three [1:28]; Four [5:47]
Mayke Rademakers (cello)
rec. Podiumkerkje, Grevenbicht, Netherlands, September 2013, February, July 2014.
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72682 [3 CDs: 60:09 + 60:06 + 60:01]

There are many ways to present music of the baroque era. Here Mayke Rademakers deliberately sets out to wrest this music from the ‘authentic’ school of thought and present it in a more modern sense, one in which she has “… strived to make a connection with today’s world”. This is not just a modern sounding performance but the Bach Suites are interspersed with short and more contemporary pieces. I must say that this approach works. Having the Bach juxtaposed with these modern works makes me refocus. Whereas in the past I mostly listened to the Suites in more than one sitting here I have found myself hearing all six in one go.

Mayke Rademakers’ playing of the Bach is crisp and strong and this is helped by the sound she achieves from her modern Saskia Schouten instrument. It is a different approach than say, that of Janos Starker (BMG RCA Victor Red Seal 09026-61436-2) with whom Rademakers studied with, or Mstislav Rostropovich (EMI Classics CDS 5 55363 2). It is vastly different from my own personal favourite, Sergei Istomin (Analekta Fleur de Lys FL 2 3114-5), who is firmly in the ‘authentic’ school, to the extent that he retunes his cello in the Fifth Suite and even swaps his instrument for a baroque five stringed cello for the Sixth Suite. Indeed when quickly swapping between the recording of Rademakers and that of Istomin, especially in the Prelude of the Sixth Suite, this wonderful music sounds quite contemporary.

I must admit that when it comes to the more modern pieces I only knew the Britten. I find Rademakers' recording of this short piece more rewarding than that by Julian Lloyd Webber (ASV CD DCA 592). I find none of the pieces in this survey to be out of place, with each proving a good sympathetic foil for the Bach, with the positioning of the Penderecki, with its B-A-C-H motive, between the Third and Fourth Bach Suites a masterstroke. It serves as a kind of pivotal point for the rest of the music on this recording.

As to Rademakers' own Improvisations, I found this set of seven pieces to be interesting and thought-provoking. Yes they won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially the sixth and seventh pieces, Distant: Three and four, which is the most progressive of the pieces and almost rock music. However, each of the pieces with a link to the Bach is worth investigating. They add a new dimension.

The Saskia Schouten cello has a beautiful sound which suits Rademakers' performance of the Bach and more modern classical pieces well. The electric cello used for the Improvisations is not specified, but it has a mellower sound than I had anticipated. It is only really when you get to the final two that its more abrasive characteristics come to the fore. The recording is bright and crisp which brings out the qualities of the music and of the performance. The first part of the booklet takes the form of a conversation between Mayke Rademakers and Matthijs Verschoor, who goes on to write notes about the music performed. Whilst I am usually put off by this approach, I found Rademakers’ answers quite open and interesting. A very fine recording.

Stuart Sillitoe



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