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Bach: The 6 Unaccompanied Cello Suites Complete

4.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
$69.95 $1.28

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This is Yo-Yo Ma's first recording of Bach's Cello Suites, digitally recorded in 1983 and first issued on LP. He has since made a second recording of the Suites in 1998, taken from the soundtrack of a video series, so it's interesting that the earlier set remains available. If you've been lucky enough to hear Ma play this music in concert, you'll realize that neither set represents his Bach at its best. This rendition is generally quite straightforward, beautifully played and musically sound but sometimes not very emotional. The second set is more expressive but frequently seems self-conscious. Either of these recordings is a worthy representation of Bach's superb music, but neither attains the mature eloquence of Starker's final recording, a level Ma will probably reach himself in his third recording. --Leslie Gerber

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Prelude
  2. Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Allemande
  3. Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Courante
  4. Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Sarabande
  5. Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Menuett
  6. Suite No. 1, S. 1007 In G Major: Gigue
  7. Suite No. 4, S. 1010 In E-Flat Major: Prelude
  8. Suite No. 4, S. 1010 In E-Flat Major: Allemande
  9. Suite No. 4, S. 1010 In E-Flat Major: Courante
  10. Suite No. 4, S. 1010 In E-Flat Major: Sarabande
  11. Suite No. 4, S. 1010 In E-Flat Major: Bourree
  12. Suite No. 4, S. 1010 In E-Flat Major: Gigue
  13. Suite No. 5, S. 1011 In C Minor: Prelude
  14. Suite No. 5, S. 1011 In C Minor: Allemande
  15. Suite No. 5, S. 1011 In C Minor: Courante
  16. Suite No. 5, S. 1011 In C Minor: Sarabande
  17. Suite No. 5, S. 1011 In C Minor: Gavotte
  18. Suite No. 5, S. 1011 In C Minor: Gigue

Disc: 2

  1. Suite No. 2, S. 1008 In D Minor: Prelude
  2. Suite No. 2, S. 1008 In D Minor: Allemande
  3. Suite No. 2, S. 1008 In D Minor: Courante
  4. Suite No. 2, S. 1008 In D Minor: Sarabande
  5. Suite No. 2, S. 1008 In D Minor: Menuett
  6. Suite No. 2, S. 1008 In D Minor: Gigue
  7. Suite No. 3, S. 1009 In C Major: Prelude
  8. Suite No. 3, S. 1009 In C Major: Allemande
  9. Suite No. 3, S. 1009 In C Major: Courante
  10. Suite No. 3, S. 1009 In C Major: Sarabande
  11. Suite No. 3, S. 1009 In C Major: Bouree
  12. Suite No. 3, S. 1009 In C Major: Gigue
  13. Suite No. 6, S. 1012 In D Major: Prelude
  14. Suite No. 6, S. 1012 In D Major: Allemande
  15. Suite No. 6, S. 1012 In D Major: Courante
  16. Suite No. 6, S. 1012 In D Major: Sarabande
  17. Suite No. 6, S. 1012 In D Major: Gavotte
  18. Suite No. 6, S. 1012 In D Major: Gigue


Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: CBS Masterworks
  • ASIN: B0000025QM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,488 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I own three popular recordings of the Bach cello suites and can check out two others from a local library. But this recording is by far the one that I listen to most often. One reason has to be the quality of the recording, which I think is generally acknowledged. But more important are Ma's impeccable technique and good musical taste: he plays what Bach wrote, and plays it more clearly and with less unnecessary embellishment than anyone else I have heard. (Call me a purist if you want to, but in my opinion piling on the rubato does not convert the cello suites into a mystical experience.)
When I applaud Ma's technique and say that he plays what Bach wrote, I am not implying that he plays mechanically -- not at all. He plays quite soulfully in my opinion. For example, he brings the Gigue of Suite 1 to life as Casals and Starker, at least, do not. He does that with dynamic variation, and by controlling the tone of his cello, mixing sweet phrases with scratchy ones. I wish that Gigue were included in Amazon's samples, as it would put to rest any charges of mechanical playing.
One customer reviewer said that if the name Ma were taken off the package, all that would remain would be another mediocre rendition of Bach's cello suites. I disagree strongly. I bought the recording on a friend's recommendation, and was not particularly a Ma fan at that time. It is this recording that made me a Ma fan.
Of course, my opinion about this recording is not intended to take away from other great performances. And I haven't heard the later Ma recording yet; maybe it is even better. But as far as I'm concerned, Ma's great technique and straightforward yet soulful approach to the suites should allow this recording to stand proudly among the best of them.
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Format: Audio CD
While I have heard only one other piece played in a different style for whom I can compare to, I must admit that I believe this is an almost perfect rendition of all Bach's Cello Suites. I wonder where any criticism can come in, except to say that maybe his breathing is annoying. But who can stop their breath? Especially when you need to put so much heart into this beautiful thing... Perhaps it's disappointing to note that these musical melodies will activate not just your pleasure centers, but also the faces you take when you think. This will change a dinner's mood to philosophical and otherwise. You'll be forced--that's the key ingredient to good music--to pay attention. You can't walk around, you must sit, and, listen.
There is no other way to say this: the performance is flawless. It has no style. He has become a perfect melody of nothing, allowing the full style of Bach himself to come through, throwing away his ego's tendency to improvise. Noting that the pieces were meant to be played in full, these are the only cello recordings I believe that can be viewed, heard, smelt, felt, and understood through the whole recording. Other artists playing these works manage to gather up large emotional swells within us, but only for the beginning five minutes or so. Or so the first minute shows us, until we get bored and stop the music. These are pure rhythm-meditations, designed to make us think. Not for relaxation, but for peace.
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Format: Audio CD
I have always found Bach to be tolerable, alright as background music for studying because it was not alive enought to distract me.However, When I heard Yo-Yo Ma playing these cello suites, I was truly moved. Each time I listen to it, the music draws me in and I ride on the waves of his cello. The performance feels so personal to me because occasionally, you can hear Yo-Yo Ma's breathing, sometimes sharp inhalation, sometimes drawn out- it creates an image in my mind of what he looks like and is feeling while he plays these pieces, and it takes me there too. This CD has made classical music come alive to me. It is a very personal, sensual CD.
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Format: Audio CD
This is awesome in expressiveness. Really touching to listen to. It is fresh and inspiring over and over again, every time I listern to it anew. I also got the "Inspired by Bach" version which was a companion to the PBS television series with Yo-Yo. But that one just does not seem as magical as this 1987 version.
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Format: Audio CD
In this repertoire Fournier and Casals are both better; Rostropovich is best. To be fair, Ma is a world-class cellist who has produced some fine recordings. But here the young Ma must compete with masters, and these performances, made early in Ma's career, come up short. (A Yo-Yo Ma acolyte may, however, find much to enjoy in the viridity Ma's playing.) If you want another opinion, check Gramaphone Magazine's reviews online. Or buy all of these recordings as I have and compare for yourself.
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By A Customer on June 17, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Pablo Casals was the first to regard these suites as concert pieces rather than mere technical exercises, or so we are told. Rostropovich approaches them with great reverence, but perhaps too much reverence. Depending on your mood or musical philosophy you may well prefer the happy medium we have here.
(I think of the guitar: the rich vibrato of Andre Segovia and Christopher Parkening in contradistinction to the dryer sound preferred by many modern guitarists, and someone such as Ron Rendek, say, falls more or less in-between.)
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