Suite in D for unaccompanied cello, BWV1012
Suite No.2 for unaccompanied cello, Op.80
Miklós Perényi (cello)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 18 April, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Miklós Perényi’s readings of Bach’s solo cello music have something of the nobility of Pierre Fournier about them, combining graceful lyricism with beautifully drawn-out phrasing. In the wonderfully positive D major Suite this is a positive quality, for this is abundantly melodic music, treble-rich and sonorous. The D major Suite less obviously falls under the fingers of the modern cellist. Indeed the nature of the instrument it was originally written for remains ambiguous, adding mystery, though it is now commonly thought that the five strings Bach had in mind were those of the violoncello piccolo. Cellists tend to perform this Suite on four strings, opting not to de-tune the ‘A’ string, Perényi’s ‘solution’ for this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert. There was an enjoyable carefree method to Perényi’s approach, not constrained by time or space – just letting the music unfold without extraneous gestures or mannerisms. As a result each movement had a glorious inevitability, Perényi’s tone remarkably secure in the heady high register of the ‘Allemande’, while in the ‘Sarabande’ his double-stopping was sublime. The more explicit dance movements swayed persuasively, the ‘Courante’ moving at quite a lick, dynamics carefully varied in the second of two beautifully lilting ‘Gavottes’.
Also written in D, in his Second Cello Suite, Britten is happy to acknowledge his debt to Bach while exploring radical possibilities that deceive the listener into thinking that two instruments rather than one are being played – in the subject of the second movement ‘Fugue’ there are cleverly inserted rests where the response to it might sit; and the slow movement calls on the cellist to employ pizzicato with one hand while playing an entirely different melody with the other. At times this lends the music an unexpected fullness, and Perényi was completely adept at splitting the musical personalities, Britten’s more-fraught passages perhaps conveying the passionate advocacy of the Suite’s dedicatee, his great friend Mstislav Rostropovich. These were evident in the opening declamation, its dotted theme reminding of the opening of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, sharing the key of D minor, and in the passionate final ‘Chaconne’, Perényi’s judgment powerful and profound.
As an ideal encore Perényi offered more Bach, the ‘Bourrées’ from the Suite catalogued as BWV1010. They were played with the same lack of fuss but complete delight that characterised the recital proper.