Tuesday 8 May 2018

Bach's Cello Suites from Sophie Webber

Sophie Webber - Bach cello suites - Gimpy
Bach Solo Cello Suites; Sophie Webber; Gimpy
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 Mar 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A vibrant & passionate modern take on Bach's solo cello suites

Bach's six suites for solo cello are an icon for all cellists and this new disc from the UK-born, USA-based cellist Sophie Webber on Gimpy Records is inevitably one of many such recordings. But the fascination of the suites is that they bring out different features in different cellists. Many players nowadays record either on Baroque cellos or use period style techniques on modern instruments, but Bach's music is strong enough and wide enough to take a whole variety of performing styles.

In fact the instruments for which Bach wrote his suites were significantly different to modern cellos, and he probably wrote sixth suite for a five-stringed instrument. The modern revival of the pieces owes a ot to the great Spanish cellist, Pablo Casals whose playing of them, intense, vibrant, personal, owes nothing to period practice, instead he re-creates Bach for a modern technique and gives us a creative dialogue.

Sophie Webber takes the Casals route and does not shy away from a big, vibrant sound. There is a wonderful amplitude to her performance, no self indulgence but a real feeling for strong tone colours. She is clearly aware of the movements' dance origins and there is a lovely bounce to some of the movements. It goes without saying that Webber brings a fine technique to the performance, playing with a lovely richness and evenness of tone, an expressive shape to the phrases and a fine evenness to the articulation.

She has called the disc escape, but there is nothing new-age of meditative about it, this is vibrant passionate Bach. The disc was recorded in St Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, San Diego, and the resonant acoustic adds a nice bloom to the recording.

Bach's music can be performed in a myriad ways, and each time will come up meaning something new. Sophie Webber gives us a vibrant, modern take, unashamed in its embrace of the modern cello and its techniques, and passionate too.

Sophie Webber has been performing a series of concerts based around the release of the CD, the next is in Chicago in August and she will be performing the Bach suites in London at the Royal Naval College Chapel, Greenwich on 23 November 2018. Further details from Sophie Webber's website.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Six suites for solo cello
Sophie Webber (cello)
Recorded at St Paul's Cathedral, San Diego, March and June 2017
GIMPY RECORDS 2CDS [74.46, 75.07]
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • Sonorous debut: Neil Ferris & Sonoro in Frank Martin & James MacMillan (★★★★) - CD review
  • Gilbert & Cellier: A work of real musical personality, The Mountebanks rediscovered  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Vivica Genaux & Sonia Prina recreate the music sung by two great castratos at the Wigmore Hall  (★★★★) - concert review
  • The story of a journey: Roderick Williams & Christopher Glynn in Schubert's Winter Journey  (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Welcome to the Magical Garden or perhaps the Garden of Magic: the piano music of Robert Saxton (★★★★) - CD review
  • Philip Venables' 4:48 Psychosis returns (★★★★) - Opera review
  • Thrilling revival: Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at Covent Garden (★★★★★) - Opera review
  • Striking double in Clapham: Shadwell Opera debuts a new work with powerful Janacek song-cycle (★★★½) - opera review
  • Music from Handel's London Theatre Orchestra (★★★★)  - CD review
  • Passio: from Tallis & Purcell to Kevin Hartnett via Bach (★★★)  - CD review
  • Out of the parlour and into the recital room - Hubert Parry's English lyrics (★★★★)  -  CD review
  • Beethoven unbound and Schubert cycles, I chat to Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams - interview
  • Bernstein, Debussy, Parry, Smyth, Bridge, Boulanger, Owen - BBC Proms 2018 - preview
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