Janos Starker • Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Speakers Corner/Mercury Records SR3-9016
Three 33-RPM 180g LPs

Bach Cello Suites

My intoduction to Bach’s music was courtesy of my dad, via Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach, and later from Sky’s brilliant take on Toccatta from their second LP, unimaginatively called Sky 2. Eager to increase my exposure to Bach performed on traditional instruments, I decided to try this boxed set.

On six sides, this boxed set contains the complete version of all six of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello. The music is as beautiful and technically compentant as I’d hoped, and I even learned the identity of a couple of pieces of music I’d liked as a child but never found out what they were (especially the Bourrees movement of Suite No. 4 in E-flat).

Originally recorded in 1965, the sound quality on these albums is quite superb (although one might argue that a solo cello probably isn’t the most challenging of recording subjects!). Judging by the sound, I’d say these albums were closely miked, enabling the minutest detail of Starker’s playing to be captured.

One potential probalem with the sound is this: for much of the recording a rumbling sound can be heard. At first I though my pressing was defective, but I quickly realised that it was sound on the recording that was being reproduced (an observation that was confirmed by the quietness of the dead wax at the end of the side). Because it’s quite a deep sound (my guess is fan noise from the recording environment’s air conditioning, or passing traffic), I think this issue will only be noticable enough to be intrusive on a wide-bandwidth system with good bass response. That said, it’s not that bad, and doesn’t intrude so much as to spoil one’s enjoyment of the music.

While not totally silent, the record surfaces are quiet, and all the records in my set were nice and flat. Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello comes in nice presentation box complete with detailed notes (including some new material written by Starker himself especially for this reissue). All in all, Speakers Corner have done a fine job and I enthusiastically recommend this one!