Bach: Suites for solo cello

Philip Higham
140:37 (2 CDs)
Delphian DCD34150

When confronted with the opportunity to record what everyone considers to be the epitome of the repertoire for your instrument, performers must inevitably make all sorts of decisions about how their version will be different. By also acting as the producer for the present engrossing recording, Philip Higham has taken even more care that one might expect over the finished sound. That sound is initially created by a combination of gut strings at A=435 (just enough slacking off of the tension to allow the instruments to speak a little differently) and a modern bow. I reckon Higham could just have been handed a twig from a tree and he would have made beautiful music! His performances are clearly indebted to developments in HIP playing without ever “being a slave” to a list of things “not to do” – the fact that he has Anna Magdalena’s score at hand (and sometimes follows her odd seeming phrasing indications) even though he normally plays from memory speaks volumes; as does his correction of what he believes to be an institutionalised error in the final suite (his version is utterly convincing!) He is quick to point out that this is how he feels the suites at the present time; like Pieter Wispelwey before him, he doesn’t rule out revisiting them at some later stage. I will be impressed if he can better these renditions.

Brian Clark