JS BACH Cello Suites Nos 1, 3 & 4
With works recorded as often as Bach’s Cello Suites, it is essential for the listener, if her interest is to be sparked and maintained, to be able to hear the underlying thesis of a player’s performance. It is pleasing, therefore, that Joachim Eijlander’s approach is audibly apparent in every bar of his first volume of the Suites: the tempi are measured, if uncontroversial, the performances are meticulous in their tuning. Those features, and the unassuming personality of Eijlander’s playing, are the greatest strengths of this disc, and there is also more grace to the dance here than is often to be found in modern recordings. The sound is not as apparently effortless as on David Watkin’s superlative Gramophone Award-nominated performance of earlier this year (Resonus, 6/15), but that is not to say that Eijlander’s voice is lost in a less characterful account (and solo pieces like these naturally have more license for individual interpretation than accompanied music).
There is considerable delicacy here, too, which, for the far greater part, brings out the multifarious layers of the music and will keep it fresh on repeated listening. Occasionally, though, there are points where his lightness of touch limits the performance slightly. That lightness, or rather the civility of his playing, can lead to him glossing over the endless, bewilderingly unpredictable sequences at the beginning of the Third Suite. There are, however, no such limitations in the beautifully painful acclamation of the open, resonating G string throughout the middle section of that Prelude. That really needs to be there in any performance such as this, which aims to (and does) stir the soul as much as it honours Bach’s perfect musical mathematics.