Pavlos Carvalho – Bach Cello Suites

On Tuesday 20 September, come to hear Miriam Teppich and Pavlos Carvalho playing in Chichester Cathedral’s Lunchtime Concerts series.

David Green has written a review of Pavlos’ recent release of Bach Cello Suites, Vol. 1, Suites 1-3 (Willowhayne).

To add to all the other anniversaries, it is roughly 300 years since Bach wrote his Cello Suites. One is spoilt for choice for recordings of them since they are the cornerstone of the cello repertoire and every cellist has to have their say in the matter. One ought to have Pablo Casals since it is due to him that we have them. After him, Steven Isserlis comes out of the many critical surveys very well. I still have Paul Tortelier on LPs, have Rostropovich from the BBC Music magazine and would have more if there were shelf space and time to play them. However, after waiting patiently, I’m glad to now have local superstar, Pavlos, and the first half of the story.

Space and time are what he brings to them, giving a feeling of unhurried immersion in the music from the famous opening bars onwards even if he only takes a few seconds longer than Casals over the Prelude to Suite no. 1. There is calm and some restraint, the cello close-up and intimate in the recording and the final bars of the Prelude shimmer rather than fizz. The Courante skips before the drowsy Sarabande and the maze of ideas is set out with the clarity of a lucid explanation.

Suite no. 2 is a more inward-looking set, the melancholy of its Prelude and shadows of the Allemande richly realized in solo lines that bring to mind the laments of Jean de St. Colombe in the film, Tous les Matins du Monde. Before plague and lockdown delayed the release of these performances I had taken the opportunity of asking the generous and ever-approachable Pavlos how many times he had played these pieces for the benefit of the record and he said three but one could keep on doing them indefinitely and have to stop somewhere. You wouldn’t know. It sounds like an entirely coherent performance.

The third Suite, in C major, is by contrast exuberant and full of expansive playing. The song and dance of the Allemande and Courante have Pavlos chasing himself playfully through the lively score before the Sarabande takes some time to reflect ahead of the panache and phrasing of the great Bourrées and the presto race of the Gigue towards the needless-to-say anticipation of Vol. 2.

Good things come to those who wait. We did and they have.

Pavlos will be playing selected parts of Suite no. 1 in Chichester on Tues, 20 September. It would be most remiss not to be there if you can be.

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