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In this film by Peter Ammann, Paul Tortelier performs the Cello Suites recorded at the Abbaye St. Michel de Cuxa, Festival Pablo Casals of Prades, live, July 1990.
Tortelier Bachs six Suites for Cello are at the pinnacle of works for that instrument. Cellists who tackle them successfully must have outstanding technical ability, rhythmic acuity, and the insight to convey the depth and drama inherent in the music. The French cellist Paul Tortelier is one who fully mastered these works. This DVD is a record of his 1990 performance at the Pablo Casals Festival of Prades. His son, the conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, writes in the program notes that the event marked the cellists fortieth anniversary of his connection with the Festival, and that he regarded the Bach Suites as his "musical bible." Though 76 years old and warned by doctors that he needed surgery for his failing heart, he insisted on playing at the festival. Perhaps it was Torteliers health issues that account for the power of these performances. That back-story adds to the extra-musical interest in this DVD, as does the sad fact that Tortelier died a few months later. Its likely a factor in the rare technical lapses that pop up here and there over the course of two-and-a-half hours of playing such difficult works with unbridled intensity. Each of the six Suites has the same structure: a Prelude followed by five dance-based movements, some slow, some fast, but all requiring a player in tune with Bachs musical world. He doesnt overly Romanticize the music, nor does he stress Bachs abstract patterns over their expressive content. His decisive Preludes signal the dramas about to unfold. He infuses the Sarabandes with emotional power hinting at their profound depths. Elsewhere, as in the Allemandes and the closing Gigues, the spirit of the dance is embodied in Torteliers rhythmic exactitude and lively playing. Visually, this DVD is a treat in its concentration on the cellist. Producer-director Peter Ammann refuses to let his cameras wander around the atmospheric, stone 10th-century Benedictine abbey that was the site of the concert or to the audience, which, aside from applause, is barely registered here. We get closeups of Torteliers weathered countenance, his hands, especially the left hand where his dancing fingers bring the music to life, and often long stretches of the cellist seen playing in full frontal views, his passion and concentration matching the musics demands. The austere, but crisp and film-making is a perfect counterpart to Torteliers playing of Bachs exalted music. --Dan Davis
Paul Tortelier: Testament to Bach: The Complete Cello Suites is an all-regions DVD in color and in monophonic sound. Video ratio is 4:3.
A wonder cellist who does not have as much notoriety as Yo Yo Ma or other contemorary cellist. Great CD from a generation past.Published 7 months ago by RJ
This is one of Tortelier's last performances after his cancer diagnosis. Although there are parts when he makes minor mistakes, it is incredible to see this performance. Read morePublished 22 months ago by serious consumer
The quality of these dvds is good. However, I was disappointed at the, so sorry to say, terrible playing by Paul Tortelier of these Bach Suites. Read morePublished on April 27, 2012 by PrimeLover