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'The experiment is an interesting one...Cellists especialy will encounter much to intrgue them and will find of interest Luolajan-Mikkola's accompanying essay dealing with tuning issues and other important matters for the would-be transcriber.'
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'The musicality of Luolajan-Mikkola's performance commands respect as does the sheer dexterity of his playing, especially in his magisterial account, for example, of the Presto in the Partita No 1 in E minor. It is such an exuberant display that we are left almost breathless with excitement...'
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Markku Luolajan-Mikkola - J.S. Bach: Complete Sonatas & Partitas - Fanfare


01 June 2016
Fanfare
Maria Nockin

The music Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for one instrument was often transcribed into another key and played on another instrument. The composer was known to do that himself at times. Although his six solo partitas and sonatas are thought to be the equivalent of Mount Everest for violinists, guitarists, lutenists, and even violists have thought themselves equal to their challenges and have transcribed them for their instruments. Thus Luolajan-Mikkola is equally welcome to transcribe these outstandingly meaningful but supremely difficult pieces for Baroque cello. He plays it on his Barak Norman cello, made c. 1700 in London. He makes the higher tones of this old instrument shine like burnished copper, while the lower notes are the aural equivalent of deep red wine shades and rich browns. Luolajan-Mikkola's playing is magical and he coaxes an amazing range of resonant sounds from his cello. In the most helpful booklet that accompanies the recording, the cellist notes that, in making his transcription, he made very few changes to the original text because Bach had placed his slurs and accent marks so well that he needed to change almost nothing. The rhythmic intensity of Luolajan-Mikkola's bow stroke adds an interpretive facet to his performance of these partitas and sonatas. Some of the passages that require flying fingers from the violinist are even more difficult on the Baroque cello, but his superlative technique overcomes these steep odds. I think he enjoys the challenge of the faster passages while letting the exquisite polish of his artistry come through in the slower, more thoughtful moments. He shapes the musical lines exquisitely and they express thoughts that defy translation into words.

Luolajan-Mikkola's tempos are slow, and anyone who is looking for a fast cello rendition of the violin partitas and sonatas will be disappointed. The beauty of this interpretation is its contemplative spirit. He brings out the details that even Bach enthusiasts may never have noticed. Luolajan-Mikkola takes listeners inside the music so that they can absorb its creative depth. The Sarabandes are graceful, the Grave speaks of nobility, and the Loure is most expressive. Listening to this disc transports the fan to Bach's own time when his music could be heard on a similar instrument in an old church. Concertgoers of the time in Germany might have had to trudge through rain or snow, and it may have been cold inside the church, but the compelling beauty of Bach's music must have warmed the hearts of those lucky enough to have heard it when it was new. We can appreciate how this music must have sounded when first heard as we sit in comfort and listen to this excellent recording. The sound on the disc only serves to remind us that secular music was and often still is performed in churches because they serve as concert halls for small communities. If you enjoy the music Bach wrote for stringed instruments, you will want to own this singularly impressive two-disc set. 


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Related Links

Markku Luolajan-MikkolaMarkku Luolajan-Mikkola
J.S. Bach: Complete Sonatas & Partitas, BWV 1001-1006J.S. Bach: Complete Sonatas & Partitas, BWV 1001-1006