Bach Cello Suites

Up until the 20th century, with a few notable exceptions, the cello was seen as decidedly inferior to the violin. This was irrevocably changed when the great Catalan musician Pau Casals stumbled upon a dusty score of Bach's cello suites while visiting a bookshop in the backstreets of Barcelona. Over the following century, Bach's masterpieces for the instrument have come to be recognised as among the most technically accomplished and emotionally compelling works in the classical canon. Anne-Isabel Meyer did a very good job of demonstrating why the cello suites are a perennial feature of the cellist's repertoire, though her recital was by no means flawless.

Still, Meyer's mastery of the bow imbued the music with a warm air. Her playing was gruff and sensual, more akin to how the Baroque cello would traditionally have been played than Romantic interpretations might sound. Meyer began her performance with Bach's third suite, known for its gentle voices and upbeat themes. Her rendition of the final romp of a gigue was particularly satisfying.

The mood then changed dramatically when Meyer played Bach's fifth suite, famous for being the most melancholic of the cycle and that for an instrument hardly known for its genial style. Her playing of the sarabande was utterly spellbinding. The movement is notable for the fact that it does not contain any chords and Meyer made the most of it, gifting every individual note with a solemn majesty.

A couple of times, Meyer lost her rhythm. Especially during the first half of her show, she made a number of glaring mistakes, cracking the beauty of the music with an unfortunate series of squeaks and whistles. Overall, though, this was a pleasing performance and worthy of both Bach's and Casals' musical legacy.

Reviews by Andrea Valentino

Performances

The Blurb

The accomplished cellist Anne-Isabel Meyer returns again this year with Bach's great masterworks for solo violoncello. Take this opportunity to hear the whole cycle in the magnificent setting of St. Cuthbert’s Church.