Suite in C for unaccompanied cello, BWV1009
Suite No.1 for unaccompanied cello, Op.72
Han-Na Chang (cello)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 27 February, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
To begin this lunchtime recital, the rich sound of Han-Na Chang’s cello filled a crowded Wigmore Hall with an authoritative reading of the majestic Prelude from Bach’s C major Suite. The Korean’s approach was relatively free and allowed plenty of room for manoeuvre, sensitively interpreting the potential for rubato yet building up a considerable cumulative power.
As a contrast the lighter Allemande tripped along and the Courante that followed was also light-footed but a good deal faster and displayed Chang’s extreme dexterity on the fingerboard. The Sarabande seemed too heavy to start with, Chang’s vibrato nearly excessive, but the reason for this became clear in the repeat as she secured a magical, inward-looking pianissimo that grew in an arching phrase towards the centre before calming for a thoughtful end.
The cellist’s youthful vigour came to the fore with a flourish for the two Bourrées, the second played almost entirely on the ‘D’ string with less vibrato, a ghostly sound that contrasted perfectly with the more exuberant first. The real fireworks were saved for the Gigue, a huge intake of breath signalling a headlong leap into music of startling rapidity. A couple of contentious rallentandos in the second half aside, Chang’s performance was a technical and strongly communicative triumph.
The same could be said of the Britten, despite a false start where Chang’s ‘A’ string collapsed in the opening phrase. Completely unflustered by this, the cellist quickly rectified this in front of the audience before playing on as if nothing had happened, bringing an appropriately solemn air to the opening music.
This opening was the first of nine movements, four designated as Canto. and as such acting as a natural point of punctuation. As the first of three such works dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, the suite calls for a formidable all-round technique, and Chang’s versatility was never in question as she brought a guitar-like sonority to the nocturnal Serenata, attacked the central Marcia with venom and struck an ominous tone with the left-hand pizzicato of the Bordone. The deliberately inconclusive Moto perpetuo with which Britten ends the suite was like an agitated group of insects here, the return of the Canto music bringing the piece full-circle yet restless and open-ended.