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Bach cello DDA21238
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Suites for Solo Cello, BWV 1007-1012
Marina Tarasova (cello)
rec. 2021, Victor Popov Academy of Choral Arts, Moscow
DIVINE ART DDA21238 [2 CDs: 141]

This welcome release presents a brilliant Russian musician who gives us her unique interpretation of Bach’s challenging cello suites. They are among the treasures of the cello repertoire, the ‘most profound of all classical music works’, yet few of Russia’s many outstanding cello players have given us their take on this wonderful collection. Of course, Rostropovich’s recordings are celebrated; however; I treasure a fine set of Melodiya LPs of the six suites by one of his favourite pupils, Alla Vasilyeva (1933-2018), sadly never released on CD. A founding member of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Vasilyeva was one of the finest Soviet cellists and was exceptional in embracing both the baroque and contemporary repertoire.

Marina Tarasova first studied at the Gnessin School where so many outstanding Russian musicians started out, then at the Moscow Conservatoire with Professor Nataliya Shakhovskaya, entered the competition circuit winning major awards at Prague, Florence and Paris and was a laureate at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. She has collaborated with such musicians as Mikhail Pletnev, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Kurt Masur, Edward Grach and Yuri Bashmet. Her first recordings appeared on the Melodiya label and later on Olympia, Northern Flowers, with reissues on Alto and Regis more recntly. This is her first release on Divine Arts.

I have heard Ms Tarasova’s recordings of Soviet music, including Myaskovsky, Khachaturian and Kabalevsky, on numerous labels, which highly impressed me, but I have never heard her playing western repertoire. This new release surprised me, for she is an outstanding musician presenting her own views on these great works – and I hope that this will lead to more recordings of western baroque repertoire for cello or other western cello works. She has a magnificent technique and is able to make it seem as if the challenging aspects of Bach’s six suites do not exist, allowing the listener so much more enjoyment of her magnificent interpretations.

In this set of cello suites, Tarasova brings out all the charm of the dances and the life-enhancing flow of Bach’s music, especially in the opening prelude with its complex arpeggiated chords. She plays so magnificently that one forgets about the technical difficulty of this music and is allowed just to sit back and listen to the splendour of her playing. In the second suite in D minor, the mood is more poignant, contrasting with the previous suite; Tarasova undertakes the scale-based cadenza through to the final powerful chords expertly, and in the minuet of the livelier Third Suite she handles the chord-shiftings and string-crossings marvellously.

In the Fourth suite in E major, the most technically difficult passages are brilliantly handled and the sarabande is serene. The sarabande in the Fifth suite seems to float as if unattached to any tonality, (which allowed Schoenberg to claim that Bach was the ‘first twelve-tone composer’). The prelude is in A-B form, and essentially is an overture in the French style, which Paul Tortelier described as an ‘extension of silence’.

In the final, sixth suite, the more open form embraces cadenza-like movements and virtuoso passages, and in the D major tonality is what Rostropovich called pure ‘joy and triumph’, all vividly presented here. Again, Tarasova gives no hint of technical difficulty, making it sound beautifully natural.

The two discs are in a duo-box with a booklet containing an essay in English on the music, a biography of Tarasova with colour photographs and details of the recording venue. This is an outstanding release and one hopes that this label will record more western classical pieces by this remarkable Russian musician.

Gregor Tassie

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