|Comments:||Thomas Hubeart said:|
In these sonatas, Yo-Yo Ma plays the viola da gamba part on the modern cello. He and his accompanist, Kenneth Cooper on harpsichord, certainly are unexceptionable on technical grounds in this 1983 recording. And their earnestness and devotion to the music are obvious in every note.
The thing I find myself wishing for is perhaps a little less "earnestness"; this is very much a stiff-upper-lip reading of Bach, and I'm convinced that in these chamber works especially, we should hear something of the more affable side of the Leipzig cantor. The man who liked to improvise a fourth contrapuntal part on top of a friend's trio sonata if he knew the friend wouldn't mind, who enjoyed portraying the blustering Aeolus, the coffee-addicted Lieschen, and the flirting of peasants, would not necessarily recognize the marble monument we have made of him all too often. It's true that Bach does deserve the pedestal on which we place him, but we also need to recognize the humanity and jocularity that are, I feel, part of his greatness. And these qualities are what I miss in this recording.
If you like your Bach staid and reverential, full of statuary dignity and played with no hint of the smile cracked by Yo-Yo Ma in the cover photo, then this is the ultimate disc for you of these works. If, however, you see Bach in a more multifaceted way, I can't say you won't find a great deal to admire in these performances, but you will no doubt come away feeling, as I do, that something's definitely missing.