In the '80s there were those listeners who thought that Heinrich Schiff might redeem cello performance practice from fatal beauty and lethal elegance. Aside from the burly and brawny Rostropovich, more and more cellists were advocating a performance style whose ideals were perfect intonation and graceful phrasing. In some repertoire, say, Fauré, these are perfectly legitimate goals. In other repertoire, Beethoven and Brahms, say, it is a terrible mistake. In Bach's Cello Suites, as the fay and fragile Yo-Yo Ma recordings make clear, it was a terminal mistake. Not so in Schiff's magnificently muscular 1984 recordings of the suites: Schiff's rhythms, his tempos, his tone, his intonation, and especially his interpretations were anything but fay or fragile. In Schiff's performance, Bach's Cello Suites are not the neurasthenic music of a composer supine with dread and despair in the dark midnight of the soul, but the forceful music of a mature composer in full control of himself and his music.
"The Bach Suites are the great baritone soliloquies of music, and Maisky has the voice for them: marvellously firm and unrestrained in the upper register, always true in pitch, never unpleasant and yet rarely giving the impression that anything as frivolous as tonal beauty is the goal … The recording captures the sense of a lone musician responding inquisitively and strongly, with all his mind and technique, to divine dictation." - The Times
These three sonatas - composed originally for the viola da gamba and harpsichord - are very musically-appealing compositions. And unlike previous Baroque cahmber-music tradition, the harpsichord is not relegated to mere continuo but projected into the spotlight as co-soloist - perhaps to showcase some of Bach's keyboard virtuosity. There are several fine period recordings of these works on viola da gamba and harpsichord (Savall, Peri, Crum, Wispelwey) or modern cello with harpsichord (Ma, Tortelier). But if your taste favors all modern instuments (cello, piano), then this circa-80's CD by the legendary Martha Argerich and Misha Maisky is the ticket.
Martha Argerich´s associations with violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Mischa Maisky are surely among the pianist’s most substantial and musically rewarding collaborations.
…In great demand as a chamber player, Maisky has performed with a number of extraordinary musicians, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Gidon Kremer, Peter Serkin, and Martha Argerich. Acclaimed for his renditions of concertos by Haydn and Schumann, Maisky is the only cellist to have received a Deutsche Grammophon offer to record Bach's complete works for the cello…
SCHUBERT: SONGS WITHOUT WORDS is an elegant recital by pianist Daria Hovora and cellist Mischa Maisky that allows us to hear Schubert songs, beautifully rich as they are with the texts as sung by many of our finest singers, here solely for the instrumental line. Somehow the interplay between melody and accompaniment (always an equal partnership in Schubert's hands) is heightened by this experience. Not that the entire album is appropriated by the cello standing in for a vocalist: the opening work is "Sonata for Arpeggione and Klavier" and is one of the highlights of the CD. But just listen to the performances of 'Standchen', 'An die Musik' and 'Du bist die Ruhe' and hear the extraordinary marriage between the piano and cello, singing as beautifully as any other version. This is one of those CDs that bears keeping out for multiple listenings in the late evening.
GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2015 - BAROQUE INSTRUMENTAL RECORDING OF THE YEAR. This recording is the first time that the five-stringed Amati has been used to record the 6th suite and it is the only original five-string cello in existence in the UK and unique in being the only one by this maker. The Cello Suites are performed on two gut-string cellos Suite Nos. 1-5 on a Francesco Ruggieri from 1660 and Suite No. 6 the five-stringed Cremona cello by A. & H. Amati from c.1600, both tuned to Baroque pitch. Bachs cello suites are renowned as the pinnacle of the instruments repertoire and are performed here in period performances by the internationally acclaimed cellist, David Watkin. David Watkin has been performing Bachs Cello Suites in concert for 35 years, and Bachs unaccompanied cello repertoire has taken him all over Europe, from the Palace of Frederick the Great at Potsdam to the Prague Spring Festival, and, as part of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, included performances sitting by the font in which Bach was baptised.
"Bach is immortal," writes Isang Enders in the foreword to his new CD of the six Suites for solo cello. "They say that Bach is the beginning and the end of all things, immortal, incomprehensible and even holy." Given this enormous challenge, no musician can be blamed for being plagued by doubts when approaching works of such calibre. And yet: "Bach's music is so human and thus always contemporary and pure. The suites should speak, they should sing and dance, hunt and contemplate – altogether subjectively and characteristically, now that I have overcome my doubts. The subjective aspect of this recording is the result of my firm conviction." These are the words of a young cellist, a high‐flyer, who led the cello section at the Dresden Staatskapelle when he was only twenty, then gave it up for a solo career. That is really all we need say; it is what marks out the Bach playing of Isang Enders from all the competing interpretations. Youthful vigour, consummate technique and a deep understanding of the works make for a perfect combination of head, heart and soul.
“Rostropovich's performances are masterly and all-involving, drawing distinctions between each work in his spoken introductions, although one can choose to hear the music without the commentaries. Unsurpassed and unsurpassable.” (The Penguin Guide)