A few years ago Eleonor Bindman recorded her own four-hand edition of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with fellow pianist Jenny Lin. Her skillfully wrought arrangements made me curious as to how she’d handle the Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites for solo piano.
Basically Bindman treats the solo cello lines straight, and sometimes harmonizes them discreetly. Bindman generally keeps within the cello’s range, a respectful yet stifling strategy. Indeed, I wish Bindman had been more adventurous: why not take this or that line up the octave, or use occasional doublings as harpsichordists or organists do all the time with Bach?
Furthermore, Bindman deals with issues of timbre and the cello’s natural expressive gestures by largely avoiding them. For example, pianists cannot make crescendos or diminuendos on a single note. One also misses the resonant fullness inherent in the cello’s two lowest open strings (G and C), as well as the high tessitura intensity. So while you get Bach’s text served up with sensitivity and taste, you lose the tactile character of its “cello-ness”, for lack of a better word.
At least Bindman’s well-considered tempos address the music’s dance origins. And her Preludes and Sarabandes sing out well enough, but not to the point where you’ll forget about Pablo Casals or Pierre Fournier or Heinrich Schiff or Paul Tortelier or Juliana Soltis or Yo-Yo Ma or Jean-Guihen Queyras or Colin Carr or Ralph Kirshbaum or Janos Starker or Anner Bylsma or Lynn Harrell or Boris Pergamenschikow, or…