It was in 1936 that the famed Catalan cellist and composer Pablo Casals performed and recorded the now familiar Bach Cello Suites. Long thought to be intellectual and technical exercises not intended for public performance these works languished for nearly 200 years on manuscript alone. Casals pretty much single handedly has made these masterworks a staple of the cellists repertory. Since Casals there have been numerous readings of these works and no sign of any flagging interest.
It is difficult to imagine any really new perspectives on these works and, aside from Kim Kashkashian’s wonderful transcriptions for viola, one gets basically the musician’s take on the music. So here comes the Israeli cellist Amit Peled who, since 2004 has had the honor (and attendant responsibilities) of playing Casals’ own cello, a 1730 Gofriller personally loaned to him by Casals’ widow. So in this first volume (second one not out yet as far as I can tell) is the first time Bach’s masterful Cello Suites have been sung by this instrument since it was in Casals’ hands.
What we have here is a sensitive and committed performance that many will want to hear perhaps as “channeling Casals” but ultimately we have a gorgeous performance by a fine musician channeling his own talents and sensitivities to produce a quite viable performance (are those gut strings I hear?). Perhaps there are nostalgic aspects here as well but whatever your preference, be it channeling, nostalgia, or simply a great performance of these masterpieces you will find all these here. Can’t wait for volume II.