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JS Bach ‘Escape’ Six Solo Cello Suites, BWV1007-1012 Sophie Webber vc Gimpy F b 888295 674102 (150’ • DDD)

JS Bach Six Solo Cello Suites, BWV1007-1012 Dariusz Skoraczewski vc Analog Arts F b 888295 628693 (135’ • DDD)

All cellists, whether on modern or period instruments, operate at the same disadvantage when playing Bach’s six Solo Cello Suites. The manuscript was lost long ago and with it his thinking about the most important component beyond just the notes: the bowings. In their outstanding new ‘modern’ recordings of the complete cycle, Dariusz Skoraczewski, principal cellist of Marin Alsop’s Baltimore Symphony, and Sophie Webber, an Oxonian living in San Diego, apply bowings – and rhythm, dynamics and speeds – with such variety and imagination that they might almost be playing different works.

In Webber’s case it’s as if she were playing the music in an intimate setting, perhaps for someone special, in which every note has meaning rather as a look or a touch does; the resulting conversations she has with the music are endlessly absorbing as they are being seamlessly incorporated into the fabric and flow of each movement. Her subjective narrative suggests the freedom with which Pablo Casals brought the music back to life a century ago. Working from a printed edition by Paul Tortelier, another legendary cellist who approached the Suites as if they were conversations rather than spectacles like Yo-Yo Ma’s recent cycle at the Hollywood Bowl before 17,000 screaming fans, Webber finds revelation in her expectations of intimacy.

She makes seemingly spontaneous, often initially risky choices of whether

talks to ... Jeremy David Tarrant The Detroit-based organist discusses his recording of Widor’s Seventh Organ Symphony

Widor is known primarily for the Toccata from the Organ Symphony No 5. How representative is this? The famous Toccata is popular for good reason. Yet to know Widor only through this piece is really like knowing Handel only through the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. Widor was adept as a composer in all forms, and his other music remains largely neglected. Listen to the chamber music, for example … it’s fantastic.

What made you choose the Seventh Organ Symphony for this recording? It happens to be my favourite of Widor’s 10 symphonies for solo organ, and it has not often been recorded, and is not often performed complete. While almost all of the movements are musically satisfying in their individual components, especially the elegant Choral, I encourage the listener to hear this symphony from beginning to end to understand its cyclic nature and grasp its scope. It runs the gamut of human emotion.

to use detached or slurred bowings to shape and energise the music, in doing so making the music vulnerable to tone and colour and so enlarging its emotional impact. Webber’s Allemandes and Courantes sound as courtly as if they were lute suites, and danceable besides; her Bourrées rollick and rock. Each suite alone is a total experience. Working from the standard Bärenreiter Urtext, Skoraczewski and his magnificent 1702 Carlo Giuseppe Testore stride through the Suites with leonine power, splendid intonation and thrilling majesty. As befits his position, Skoraczewski is speaking to a large public audience and

Is this music that needs a certain type of organ or size of physical space? An organist will ideally possess an intimate knowledge of the organs for which Widor was writing (specifically, the instruments of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll) in order to adapt his music to other instruments. The organ on which I recorded, modelled in the French Romantic tradition, is ideal for communicating Widor’s music, and it is housed in a generous acoustic. I believe it was Cavaillé-Coll who said that the room is the most important stop on the organ.

Do you plan to record any more Widor? Next year is the 175th anniversary of Widor’s birth and I’m mulling over a few projects. Maybe these will result in more recordings.

clearly reaching the last seat in the house – not with sound alone but with the laser clarity of his intentions and the steady pulse of his sweep.

Overall he prefers a legato point of view, at least in the slower movements. His Courantes, however, are ferociously undanceable; his Gigues have jig-like energy and bounce; his Fifth Suite is haunted by actually spooky scordatura tuning; and he surges in the Sixth Suite to carry the day. The recordings, which Skoraczewski self-produced in his home studio, capture the sounds of his instrument with smooth audiophile power.   Laurence Vittes

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GRAMOPHONE JUNE 2018 I