Magazine article Gramophone

Bach

Magazine article Gramophone

Bach

Article excerpt

Bach

Cello Suites Nos 1-6, BWV1007-1012

Pierre Fournier vc

Archiv Produktion (o, e) 449 7112

Fournier is splendidly assured in technique and warm in tone throughout, and is excellently recorded (in rather more resonant surroundings than Starker), but he never matches Starker's extraordinary effortlessness. In No 2 he takes the Prelude flexibly, however, and shows a fine rhythmic impetus throughout the suite. In the Minuets he is a good deal more deliberate and forceful than Starker (who took them rather fast, with entirely convincing results), and in the Gigue more weighty; and in the Courante there is less subtlety of coloration. In the G major Suite I still find Starker's Gigue a little lacking in bite, but Fournier's speed, though more incisive, strikes me as a bit ponderous. His Prelude doesn't just ripple off the bow; the Allemande is characterised by some very un-Baroque bulges of tone at odd places, and in the Courante he falls into a mannerism of stressing anacrusic phrase-beginnings. No, I feel that Starker still holds the field, though this is a worthy contender.

Lionel Salter reviewing Suites Nos 1 & 2 (11/62)

I entirely agree with Lionel Salter who reviewed the first of Fournier's records of the Bach unaccompanied Cello Suites last November, that the only serious competitor among the available versions is Starker. I am not quite so certain, though, that if I had to choose between the two it would be Starker. I prefer the less glamourised acoustic that Columbia have given him, and in many movements I find his inward style of playing very attractive, but there is an occasional sense of nervous tension in his bowing that can become uncomfortable. Fournier is rather grander, more sophisticated and fluent, and on balance I find this preferable. His more genial approach prevents him from ever seeming to rush, as I think Starker does in both the Prelude and the Gigue of the E flat major Suite. Fournier's rhythmic spans are also a little longer and more flexible; though some may find his occasional rhythmic freedoms a shade too 'romantic' they seem to me to be controlled by an impeccable taste. So on balance I should be inclined to choose Fournier's performance rather than Starker's, if I had to, for its more relaxed eloquence--but with the proviso that these performances are both so distinguished that anyone who already owns Starker's recording has no cause for dissatisfaction at all. Jeremy Noble reviewing Suites Nos 3 & 4 (3/63)

Rob Cowan It's at times like this that I find harking back to the opinions of our illustrious reviewing forebears remarkably interesting. Here you find Lionel Salter pitting Pierre Fournier's assured technique against Janos Starker's extraordinary effortlessness whereas Jeremy Noble, who unlike Salter prefers Fournier overall, appreciates the Frenchman's more genial approach. With Starker's 1963 Mercury set still imminent at the time (though we wouldn't see it for a long while here in the UK) and Harnoncourt's plain-speaking accounts auspicious in principle rather than in practice, Starker on EMI and Fournier on Archiv were the finest exponents of these suites to arrive on LP beyond the Great Recordings of the Century transfers of the charismatic pre-war Casals recordings (1957), a benchmark then, as they are now.

Caroline Gill I love the way you describe Harnoncourt's version as 'auspicious in principle rather than in practice'. These days it's second nature for us to discuss recordings of these masterpieces in terms of their performance practice rather than the first impressions of their musicality, and in some ways I think the 1960s was a golden age for examining their unadulterated beauty above everything else. The awe with which Casals so clearly viewed the suites may have given them a context of greatness, but the recordings of the likes of Starker, Cassado and Tortelier (which were made in 1961 but, interestingly, not mentioned by either Salter or Noble) presented them as music for music's sake. …

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