Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
For those who have not been paying attention, this re-issue is the second trio of unaccompanied cello suites (BWV1010 to 1012 inclusive) previously released as half of a double CD containing all six. Any additional comments can be covered with a "see above" for my review of Numbers 1 to 3. However, to save you looking, the cellist is the Austrian Heinrich Schiff, who takes a historically informed approach and whose performance, in the "Evangelische Kirche, Seon," has been well captured by producer Gerd Berg. This is a worthwhile addition to any collection although, as has been said before, there are plenty of other equally worthy contenders and in the overall scheme of things unless you are a Bach completist or a cello obsessive there is no need to own a multiplicity of Bach Cello Suites. While not conceding that he is correct I nevertheless appreciate Stephen Isserlis' speculation that Bach's Cello Suites can be listened to as a Mystery Suite, not unlike instrumental meditations on the Seven Last Words from the Cross. Thus, for Isserlis, the second set of three Suites can be understood to represent "The Joyful Mystery: The Procession in the Temple", "The Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion", and "The Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection". I do not know what Johan Sebastian might have made of this theory but we do know that he was a devout believer who, at the time of the composition of these Suites, was employed in a secular capacity in Köthen in Saxony-Anhalt. Bach was a remarkable man, interested in many things beyond the scope of his day job, and I think he would not be offended if future listeners heard things in his music that were not part of his original intention. At the easiest level, that of listening for pleasure (and indeed, for cellists, playing these pieces for the sheer joy of it) this is the original music for pleasure: tuneful, melodic, joyous - however we wish to describe it. Is there something deeper here? For a creative Christian there is always the possibility that God may be looking over our shoulder as we work and, as Bach habitually wrote, all his music was written for "Soli Deo Gloria", "To the Glory of God Alone" and who could ask for anything more?
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