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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Six Suites for Cello Solo
Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 [17:10]
Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008 [18:43]
Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009 [21:09]
Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, BWV 1010 [24:22]
Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 [24:40]
Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012 [28:41]
Henri Honegger (cello)
rec. 1959
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1858/9 [57:04 + 76:46]

There appears to be very little information on the internet regarding the Swiss cellist Henri Honegger (1904-1992), and Forgotten Records don't include any booklet notes. His teachers included Ami Briquet in Geneva, Julius Klengel at the Leipzig Conservatory and Pablo Casals and Diran Alexanian in Paris. He held the position of 1st cellist in the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva until 1964. His solo concertizing took him to Europe, North and South America, and Japan.

There’s a crowded and competitive market for the Cello Suites, so this cycle competes against such luminaries as Rostropovich, Tortelier, Fournier and, of course, Casals, who brought these works to public attention in the first place. Having listened to Honegger’s cycle a couple of times over the past week, I can assure readers that you definitely won’t feel short-changed by these performances.

How does Honegger’s style compare? First of all his readings are bold and forthright and, throughout, his chosen tempi feel just right. He commands a rich powerful tone using a fair amount of vibrato. This is tastefully applied and employed to add colour to his sound. Intonation is so important when a stringed instrument is so exposed in this way and, for the most part, is pure and centred. Phrasing is natural and expressive and comes from the heart.

Each of the suites begins with a prelude followed by a set of dance movements, and Honegger’s preludes are comfortably paced, and never sound mechanical or wooden. There’s great fluidity in the line. Energy and drive are a feature of the dance movements, and here they are buoyant and sprung. Subtlety of nuance, ardent expression and carefully applied rubato illuminate the sarabandes. In Suite no. 5 in C minor, however, I would have welcomed a more introspective approach to its melancholy sarabande. Gigues are, on the whole, animated and lithe.

Set down on the 10th and 11th February in Copenhagen, these recording first appeared on Valois LPs. They’ve also made it to CD on the Japanese Spectrum label, but have been difficult and expensive to source in the West. Their reappearance on this twofer from Forgotten Records is most welcome. The transfers are superbly done, and the performances are alive and fresh, with the acoustic warm and intimate. All told, there’s some distinguished musicianship on offer.

Stephen Greenbank

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