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Dip Your Ears, No. 145 (Jan Vogler's Bach Suites)

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J.S.Bach, Cello Suites,
Jan Vogler

Jan Vogler is a busy man, running the lovely Dresden Music Festival. It wasn’t surprising then that when I last heard him in his function as a cellist, he sounded as though he had been busier administrating than practicing. That he dared or bothered to perform the marvelous and rare Arthur Honegger Cello Concerto made up for much, but not all. If I remember correctly he followed it with an encore from the Bach Suites that I tried to forget, rather than remember.

Years before that he had impressed me greatly with the Elliot Carter Cello Concerto (in concert and on record), which is generally heartening, but doesn’t necessarily speak to Bach-aptitude. That memory (the acute and the suppressed) and the knowledge that the admin-work can’t have lessened in the last years, as the Dresden Musikfestspiele burgeon into the European festival scene had me anticipate this newly recording of the Bach Suites with trepidation, rather than joy.

Bach: Cello Suite No.1, Menuet (excerpt), Jan Vogler, Sony

But there is of course no excuse to release a technically imperfect, much less an embarrassing studio album in this day and age, especially not from a major label and fully aware of the massive competition. And so I should not have been surprised that Vogler’s is adequate in all these ways. I might still have been surprised, though, that it’s quite as good and fluid as it is! In booming, full sound, and with a swift, lightly dancing motion, Vogler works his way through the six Suites (arranged in order), erring, if anything, on the neutral, not idiosyncratic side. If there are no outright highlights, there are no weak spots either… until the audibly uncomfortably lying, tricky Sixth Suite puts a few dents in the faultlessness. It sounds a bit like he didn’t get that far with the practicing, but had only seven days booked in the studio and so the rhythms are oddly halting and the high notes squeezed. Or maybe the compromise of playing them with his Stradivari (on four, not five strings) hampered him.

The booming part is perhaps stipulated by his cello, the 1710 “ex Castelbarco-Fau” Stradivarius: partly because it might well sound like that (the Stradivari cellos I’ve heard tended to be boom-boxes of sorts; especially the Library of Congress “Castelbarco”). And partly because it needs to be miked prominently, for a disc that is in part a promotional tool for Vogler and his new Stradivarius. Something he does not tire to mention in the self-written (and self-promoting) pithy booklet notes.

With the boom, it reminds me of Heinrich Schiff’s recording on EMI (which may not be surprising, assuming Schiff plays his 1711 “Mara” Stradivarius on it), while the playing reminds me of the unfussy excellence of Sebastian Klinger’s recent recording (Oehms, MWeb review here), Vogler being similarly unadorned and straight forward, and in the first three Suites just a little fleeter. Ultimately Vogler is good to have, and not good enough to get… not as long as more intriguing modern recordings are still missing from your collection. Like the greatness of Jean-Guihen Queyras (Harmonia Mundi), the extroverted, wilful excellence of Gavriel Lipkind (Berlin Classics/Lipkind), or the historically informed whirling energy of Pieter Wispelwey (Challenge) or the historically experimental Viola Pomposa cheerfulness of Sigiswald Kuijken (Accent).

The Bach Cello Suites elsewhere on ionarts:

Just What Are the Bach Cello Suites? [Pandolfo, Cocset]
Solo Bach Cello Suites [Ma, Haimovitz]
Dip Your Ears, No. 4 [Wispelwey]
Dip Your Ears, No. 25 [Fournier]
Dip Your Ears, No. 111 [S.Kuijken, Viola Pomposa]
Bach Cello Suites [Baumann, Boettcher]
● The Cello Suites, Bach I [Maisky, DVD]
● The Cello Suites, Bach II [Rostropovich, Fournier, Isserlis, Harnoncourt]
● The Cello Suites, Bach III [Gastinel, Queyras, Lipkind]
● The Cello Suites, Bach IV [Klinger]
● CD Pick & Recent Releases [Bailey]


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. In fact I choosed Fournier, Lipkind and Queyras for my suites cd collection.
I still don't know this specific recording...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and of course the complete Bach suites Wispelwey's second recording...