Saša Večtomov’s Gripping Bach Cello Suites

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

The Czech cellist Saša Večtomov (1930-1989) recorded a good number of discs for Supraphon and Melodiya, both as soloist and as a member of the Czech Trio. However, his 1984 Bach Cello Suites have long eluded collectors until their belated CD release, 36 years after the fact. Apparently Supraphon insisted that the performances fit across two LPs, rather than the usual three; hence the lack of repeats. Yet for those who can deal with repeat-less Bach suites, the emotional and physical presence and intensity resulting from Večtomov’s cello mastery and musical insight more than compensate.

In addition to his rich, full-bodied sonority and spot-on intonation, Večtomov projects the various dances with elemental force and emphatic accents that enhance rather than detract from the buoyancy of his basic pulse. Imagine the pioneering Pablo Casals and modern reference Heinrich Schiff interpretations morphed, and you’ll essentially get the picture. The Menuets are earthy rather than courtly, the Gigues and Gavottes are measured yet lustrously rhythmic, and the Allemandes are unabashedly declamatory without losing the music’s long-lined shape. And unlike cellists who habitually engage in agogic stresses, elongations, and holdbacks, usually to predictable effect, Večtomov internalizes such expressive devices to the point where they cannot be second-guessed.

Repeats or none, Večtomov’s Bach cycle is among the most gripping and absorbing ever recorded, and should be heard by anyone who cares about these works. And while we’re on the subject of buried treasure, I hope that Miloš Sádlo’s equally wonderful yet utterly different 1977 Supraphon Bach Suites (with repeats intact) will make their CD debut in due course.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Schiff (Warner); Queyras (Harmonia Mundi); Pergamenschikow (Hänssler)

  • Saša Večtomov (cello)

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