JS BACH Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012
To be so moved by so little is to show in perfectly appropriate terms the very nature of these pieces, and a rare and special event on any disc (let alone a live recording). But Colin Carr’s phrasing and articulation are so precise yet carefully understated, and of a kind of total-acceptance simplicity, that the music is given space to sing (aided by his spectacular Marquis de Cordobon Stradivari) at the same time as entering the room without any pomp.
At no point in this dignified performance does Carr resort to ‘oversharing’ with the audience to make his point. Although he is revered for his musical intensity, it isn’t as obvious here as it may be in his recordings of Schumann and Brahms or his voyages into niche chamber music, and quite rightly. One of the qualities best served by his respectful withdrawal from the soul-baring front line of the music is that its dance identity is so joyfully evident – the phrases relay into each other like a figureskater moving from pose to pose; the end of each never experiences a heavy footfall; and the openings of many are so graphic that you can almost see the dancers bowing to each other before they begin (the Prelude of the C major Suite in particular). Carr is so fleet of foot, even in the slowest movements, that it is not long before it becomes clear that this performance is a masterclass in restraint and musical altruism. The musical interpretation itself is almost transparent – nothing disturbing the millpond, save the knowledge that the tranquillity of its performance is in inverse proportion to its depth.
It’s easy to think that the definitive recordings of these important pieces could only be the studio versions: ones where every phrase has been scrutinised and, if necessary, retaken. But the very least Carr’s living, breathing manifestation of a lifetime of study can do is make the listener reconsider whether the most three-dimensional way to present such profound music is, in fact, to prepare in private but trust to luck in public.