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J.S.Bach: Six Solo Cello SuitesDavid Kenedy
Bach's Solo Cello Suites are unsurpassed masterpieces. depicting a complex universe of spirit, thought and human emotion. The inventiveness, breadth of wisdom and unsurpassed beauty of Bach's intention are represented in this intensely personal new recording by David Kenedy which captures the serenity and profundity of the music, as well as it's joyous expression as Dance.
From both his frequent recitals and broadcasts in both Europe and the USA, David Kenedy has won international acclaim for his prolific work as a chamber musician. As well as being a founder member of the London Mozart Trio, he has twice had the honour of being invited to play in the Jaqueline du Pré Memorial Concerts in Lambeth Palace and the Wigmore Hall. Since 1990 he has been professor of 'cello and Chamber Music at Trinity College of Music, London.
"I thoroughly enjoyed David Kenedy's performances - indeed so taken was I by his innate musicality and his self-evident joy of playing that I listened to the first three Suites straight off, first time around. On my returning to them individually several times, my initial reaction has not changed: I like these performances very much … Throughout this set the overriding impression given is that we are listening to a very musical player whose technique is first-class and whose approach to individual tempos is generally excellent. Kenedy has the measure of this difficult music and I prefer his account to that of a number of other, far more well-known cellists. … In sum, these are most musical and intelligent readings, combining brilliance and elegance with a sincere musical purpose. The recordings are very good indeed and this set is warmly recommended"
What people are saying
"there is no denying David Kenedy's intimate understanding of these fantastic pieces ... Unaffected, honest musicianship at its best" Early Music Review
"His performances are bold and clean-lined ... these are performances of honest affection, and ones to be well pleased with" The Gramophone
"Kenedy allows the music to grow in confidence so that by the end we are in the full sunlight ... I felt that I was in some private, spacious drawing room with a few friends ... these are sincere performances, bold and clean-cut ... This is honest and affectionate playing and is worth adding to your Bach collection" MusicWeb International
" ... playing possessed of spiritual integrity ... Kenedy is seen at his best in the tragic Suite No.5 ... the Sarabande of No.4 is extremely instructive, Kenedy is meditative, reflective, expressing human vulnerability" Musical Pointers
David Kenedy, cello
Release date: 1st Jan 2007
Order code: SIGCD091
|1.||Suite I (BWV 1007) - Prélude||J.S. Bach||3.06|
|2.||Suite I (BWV 1007) - Allemande||J.S. Bach||5.19|
|3.||Suite I (BWV 1007) - Courante||J.S. Bach||2.47|
|4.||Suite I (BWV 1007) - Sarabande||J.S. Bach||3.16|
|5.||Suite I (BWV 1007) - Menuet I - Menuet II - Menuet I||J.S. Bach||3.22|
|6.||Suite I (BWV 1007) - Gigue||J.S. Bach||1.53|
|7.||Suite II (BWV 1008) - Prélude||J.S. Bach||3.57|
|8.||Suite II (BWV 1008) - Allemande||J.S. Bach||3.53|
|9.||Suite II (BWV 1008) - Courante||J.S. Bach||2.15|
|10.||Suite II (BWV 1008) - Sarabande||J.S. Bach||4.42|
|11.||Suite II (BWV 1008) - Menuet I - Menuet II - Menuet I||J.S. Bach||2.53|
|12.||Suite II (BWV 1008) - Gigue||J.S. Bach||3.01|
|13.||Suite III (BWV 1009) - Prélude||J.S. Bach||4.21|
|14.||Suite III (BWV 1009) - Allemande||J.S. Bach||3.39|
|15.||Suite III (BWV 1009) - Courante||J.S. Bach||3.03|
|16.||Suite III (BWV 1009) - Sarabande||J.S. Bach||4.21|
|17.||Suite III (BWV 1009) - Bourée I - Bourée II - Bourée I||J.S. Bach||3.43|
|18.||Suite III (BWV 1009) - Gigue||J.S. Bach||3.33|
|19.||Suite IV (BWV 1010) - Prélude||J.S. Bach||3.59|
|20.||Suite IV (BWV 1010) - Allemande||J.S. Bach||4.05|
|21.||Suite IV (BWV 1010) - Courante||J.S. Bach||3.19|
|22.||Suite IV (BWV 1010) - Sarabande||J.S. Bach||4.19|
|23.||Suite IV (BWV 1010) - Bourée I - Bourée II - Bourée I||J.S. Bach||5.13|
|24.||Suite IV (BWV 1010) - Gigue||J.S. Bach||2.39|
|25.||Suite V (BWV 1011) - Pr?lude||J.S. Bach||7.06|
|26.||Suite V (BWV 1011) - Allemande||J.S. Bach||4.07|
|27.||Suite V (BWV 1011) - Courante||J.S. Bach||2.05|
|28.||Suite V (BWV 1011) - Sarabande||J.S. Bach||2.57|
|29.||Suite V (BWV 1011) - Gavotte I - Gavotte II - Gavotte I||J.S. Bach||4.29|
|30.||Suite V (BWV 1011) - Gigue||J.S. Bach||2.21|
|31.||Suite VI (BWV 1012) - Pr?lude||J.S. Bach||5.26|
|32.||Suite VI (BWV 1012) - Allemande||J.S. Bach||8.12|
|33.||Suite VI (BWV 1012) - Courante||J.S. Bach||3.53|
|34.||Suite VI (BWV 1012) - Sarabande||J.S. Bach||4.28|
|35.||Suite VI (BWV 1012) - Gavotte I - Gavotte II - Gavotte I||J.S. Bach||4.28|
|36.||Suite VI (BWV 1012) - Gigue||J.S. Bach||5.25|
Classic FM Magazine, May 2007, ***
Inspired at a young age by hearing the legendary Pablo Casals play Bach's Six Cello Suites, the cellist David Kenedy, professor at Trinity College of Music in London, now brings the same music to disc. He shares Casals's snarling, passionate bow and very deliberate articulation, giving the music, in some cases, an almost staccato touch. Some listeners might prefer a more legato line, particularly in Suite No. 5, where the chords have a tendency almost to bark. Kenedy differs from the master in certain important respects: he performs at slightly slower tempi, takes no liberties emphasising bowed notes with a left hand pizzicato, and smokes no pipe while playing - but otherwise the Spaniard's ghost is certainly here.
International Record Review, March 2007
This is a very enjoyable issue - a set of generally excellent performances of these masterpieces by a very good cellist who has clearly studied the scores in depth over a long period and conveys his love and understanding of the music admirably. Yet one must say that we are not exactly short of complete recordings of Bach's Cello Suites - not a month passes, it seems, without a new or reissued set appearing from some label, somewhere. None the less, I thoroughly enjoyed David Kenedy's performances - indeed, so taken was I by his innate musicality and his self-evident joy of playing that I listened to the first three Suites straight off, first time around. On my returning to them individually several times, my initial reaction has not changed: I like these performances very much.
This is not to say that each suite is equally well performed; the set begins with a good performance of the G major, and I particularly admire Kenedy's account of the D minor (No. 2; and I must point out a drawback in Signum's packaging, in that the keys of these works are nowhere stated, either in the booklet or elsewhere). Throughout this set the overriding impression given is that we are listening to a very musical player whose technique is first-class and whose approach to individual tempos is generally excellent. An observation that some listeners may consider a drawback is that Kenedy does not vary repeats as subtly as he might - not that they should be so very different from the first time around, but there is a tendency (no more than that) for the repeats to be virtually identical. I do not necessarily find this as distracting as others may, and in the second half of the Allemande of the Fourth Suite Kenedy is particularly successful (as one example from many) at making those subtle changes - especially in dynamics.
In the Third suite, the Allemande is not quite so clean, but the Courante is really excellent. I did not feel that Kenedy probed the Sarabande as well as he might have, but the Bourée is a delight all through. It is a fact that the first three Suites are, as a group and individually, much shorter than the last three, and I was particularly impressed by playing of thePraeludium in Suite No. 4. This is among the most difficult movements in these works to bring off convincingly (alongside those that begin the Fifth and Sixth) in that the broken chords which are such a feature of the movement need special care if they are not to degenerate into a rather boring succession, just occasionally interrupted and linked by running semiquavers. Kenedy has the measure of this difficult music and I prefer his account to that of a number of other far more well-known cellists. In this Suite, also, I admire his very slow tempo for the Sarabande, admirably sustained, but I am unsure that treating the grupetto-like four semiquavers which begin each phrase in Bourée I as a separate phrase - rather than as anacrusis leading to the theme - is fully convincing.
In the powerful Fifth Suite, arguably the greatest of the set, Kenedy copes admirably with the problem of the Courante - those of clarity in a fast tempo in the lowest register - but I should have preferred a more consistently flowing line in the succeeding Sarabande (such a difficult movement, despite its single-line writing and slow tempo, to phrase convincingly). The Gavottes and the concluding Gigue are very well done. In the Sixth Suite (a four-stringed instrument is used, as is virtually customary these days), many would wish for a more brilliant reading of the Praeludium than Kenedy gives, at a slightly faster tempo, but he is remarkable in ensuring that the music flowers as it progresses, from an almost improvisatory beginning to an ending which is engrossing. In theAllemande, he does not reach the depths that Casals, Starker and Rostropovich find in this music, but he is still very good, and the Couranteis excellent.
In sum, these are most musical and intelligent readings, combining brilliance and elegance with a sincere musical purpose. The recordings are very good indeed and this set is warmly recommended.
"This Week's New Releases", Classic FM, January 2007
As he approaches 50, David Kenedy felt a need to record this music which inspired him to pick up the cello in the first place. The result is a heart-felt, passionate performance of some of the most beautiful Bach works ever, and David plays them wonderfully. He says: 'This music seems to want to come out of me"¦ to tell my version of its pain and joy, truth and beauty.' If you are a fan of these cello suites, then this is a great new recording from Signum classics for you to enjoy
The Strad, May 2007
Having been inspired to take up the cello through listening to Casals's performances of the Bach Suites, it's perhaps inevitable that David Kenedy, a pupil of Aldo Parisot and Boris Pergamenshikow, should have approached the prospect of committing to disc his own interpretations of these works with some trepidation. The challenges are legion, not merely through trying to master the harmonic and contrapuntal implications of the music within one line, but also in attempting to preserve the spirit of the dance. But Kenedy's performances are obviously carefully thought through, have a clear emotional map of each suite and use a harmonic and contrapuntal logic that is effectively portrayed in the kind of warmly recorded performances you'd be happy to hear in the concert hall.
Early Music Review, April 2007
Ordinarily this modern cello recording would not feature in these pages, but there is no denying David Kenedy's intimate understanding of these fantastic pieces and his ability to convey his interpretation of their inner meaning. He plays the sixth suite on a four-string cello with no apparent difficulty (Bach had envisaged the use of the more exotic five-stringed instrument for the piece). Unaffected, honest musicianship at its best.
The Gramophone, July 2007
…Kenedy's inspiration is less specific - the Suites as celebration of Creation and of life as expressed through the dance, with that Second Prelude now climaxing with a "celestial choir" - but the result is no less heartfelt. His performances are bold and clean-lined, if less caressingly resonant than Isserlis's and with less of his virtuoso agility and rhythmic flexibility. Kenedy makes less distinction between different suites and prefers strongly projected lines shaped by big crescendi and diminuendi, though at a cost in light and shade. And despite his stated interest in the dance element, he lacks Isserlis's airborne magic. But these are performances of honest affection, and ones to be well pleased with.
MusicWeb International, July 2007
You might consider it unfortunate that the Irish-born cellist David Kenedy's Bach Suites should be issued at the same time as a much trumpeted Hyperion version by Steven Isserlis. However I had already decided not to make this a comparative review, largely because on looking through the catalogue I found countless alternative versions available and secondly because, I have come to this music fresh, not having heard the suites for several years and without a single version of them to my name. Judge for yourself if this is good or not but it is certainly possible to make comments on a performance and approach without the heavy baggage of knowledge. Who knows - you too may be in a similar position.
First the nicely illustrated programme notes by David Kenedy himself. They are very personal, and I like that. They take us back to his first encounter with this music aged 5, when he heard the LPs of the great Pablo Casals. In fact that is exactly where I started although I was 15 not 5. He tells us how the music affected him emotionally at a young age and how, at the age of 50 only now does he feel able and willing to commit his interpretations to disc. Often when music is so precious to us we can take such a view. Its God-like quality can have an adverse effect on our efforts. Perhaps Kenedy would fall into this trap. Steven Isserlis is also coming to the music later in life: he will be 50 next year.
In his recent recording Isserlis equated the suites to a scenario of the life of Christ. I quote The Gramophone article (July 2007): the suites begin with the "joyful mystery" then "the nativity, culminating in the resurrection of the sixth suite with its radiant ending". David Kenedy also sees a underlying spirituality but is less specific. I will quote straight from his more objective booklet notes: "the Suites can be seen as Bach's musical offering to his creator of a mirror of all that he sees around him ….. the six days of creation combine to build a single structure incorporating the physical, mental and spiritual realms in a vast and extraordinary work." The fact remains however, that no-one really knows why Bach wrote these suites. He was at that time concert master to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen so he must surely have had an especially fine and reliable performer in mind.
Many composers fight shy of writing for a single instrument or voice. Consequently it used to be the case when I was a student that young composers were encouraged to write for unaccompanied instruments, concentrating on a single line, which can only be coloured, in the case of a string instrument, by some double-stopping. It is a hard discipline and many, very experienced composers still find it arduously challenging. Bach may have taken the view that it was a discipline for him too. It's interesting that you can hear the composer, then in his early thirties, growing in maturity as the six suites develop.
Kenedy allows the music to grow in confidence so that by the end we are in the full sunlight. His above comments fit neatly with Kenedy's intimate and thoughtful approach. With possible exception of the flamboyant Sixth Suite, I felt that I was in some private, spacious drawing room with a few friends. There the player muses, without too much sense of spectacle, on the music, mulling over its subtleties. These are then snapshots of how the performer feels about the works at the moment of recording and in that particular space.
The suites each fall into six sections: a Prelude, an Allemande, a Courante, a Sarabande, then either a pair of Minuets or Bourrées or Gavottes and a Gigue brings proceedings to an end.
Kenedy's view and approach to these six masterworks can also be discovered in his notes when he comes to discuss the suites in turn. The first, he says is generally the simplest, and it certainly is the shortest; note for example the brief lyrical Prelude. The second he describes as 'most intimate and fragile' and here incidentally the beautiful and elegantly toned 1758 cello by Carlo Landolfi comes into its own. The third suite is described as "grand, confident and self-possessed". The Fourth suite is on a larger scale, which Kenedy says wanders "to distant, gloomy tonalities, a foretaste of the threat of doom". The fifth suite is the darkest and most uncompromising but the sixth brings the cycle to a full "affirmation of all aspects of life, human and divine".
I would describe this recording as a good place to start with the Bach Suites. No one would say that David Kenedy had made it into the pantheon of the world's great cellists - yet. That said, these are sincere performances, bold and clean-cut but not as passionate as others. Having heard Isserlis's superb performance of the Sixth Suite yesterday, still lying fresh in my ears, I can vouch for that. There is not enough drama and light and shade but there is an emphasis on line and tone. This is honest and affectionate playing and is worth adding to your Bach collection but not I would suggest to stand on its own as your only interpretation.
Musical Pointers, January 2008
Bach Cello Suites SIGCD 091 and Antonio Meneses (Avie AV0052)
These two recordings are direct competitors with coincidental similarities. Both Meneses and Kenedy were exactly fifty years old at time of recording, both saw the Bach ‘cello suites as a landmark of life, both are best known for their membership of an ensemble, indeed a piano trio (the Beaux Arts and London Trios respectively, Kenedy also for the London Piano Quartet).
Kenedy is consciously intimate, private, his playing possessed of spiritual integrity rather than any sense either of musicology or even public performance. He writes a confessional essay as well as his own notes for the booklet and uses his daughter’s artwork. Meneses is glossy, glitzy, consciously stage-y and well-projected. Although Avie is an artist-driven label, the personal appreciation in the booklet actually comes from the producer/engineer, Simon Fox-Gal, and the notes make no reference to the performance.
Meneses’ tempi are generally brisker than Kenedy’s, and he has a glossier tone, metal rather than Kenedy’s wood. Kenedy emphasises the beat, Meneses the music’s flow. As to interpretations, honours are even, both performers are convincing and it is easy to enter into the sound-world of each after a few movements.
Nor are individual highlights necessarily the expected ones. Kenedy is seen at his best in the tragic Suite No.5, while the cheerfulness of No.6, and in particular its high treble register (it was originally written for a five-string instrument) seems better to suit Meneses. But in the very intimate No.2, it is Meneses who better conveys that sense of Baroque expressivity, just as in No. 3, it is Kenedy who more successfully projects the grandeur. For a direct comparison, the Sarabande of No.4 is extremely instructive, Kenedy is meditative, reflective, expressing human vulnerability, Meneses is almost operatic, declamatory, like the Evangelist in a Passion.
It has been much commented that these two recordings not only appear in a legendarily crowded field, leading off among historic accounts with Casals, but also simultaneously with the Hyperion Isserlis version. Reviewers often comment that listening to Bach performances and recordings leads the listener to appreciate the greatness not of any particular interpreter, but of the composer. This is the case here. Neither recording is ‘authentic’ in the scholarly H.I.P. sense, but both are infused with love of the music. Both can be heartily recommended.