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Bach Preludes from Bach's solo Cello Suites
interspersed with meditations improvised on electric cello

Matthew Barley

Wigmore Hall 13 April 2009

Ever since my piano teacher at school, who played Preludes from the "48" regularly at Assembly, told me that the fugues would be unsuitable I have held a guilty feeling that the preludes are more varied and interesting and that some enterprising keyboard player would do well to offer a programme of the preludes on their own (see discussion at http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/LiveEvents08/CrosslandBlackheath.html) instead of adding to the crowded library of complete 48s on CD.

Yesterday cellist Matthew Barley did so for the cello suites, to which, for us, the same applies. The preludes are the most developed and interesting movements of each of the six suites, not to belittle the beauty of some of the dances which follow; the wholes have become the lynchpins of the cello's repertoire.

It was to hear all the Preludes one after another that I went to Wigmore Hall at lunchtime. But there was a bonus, Barley's own five improvised meditations interspersed through his musical journey, played on his brand new electric cello, lovely to behold as to hear. These made for a perfectly balanced programme, received with approbation by the Wigmore Hall's regular lunchtime audience.

Interesting that on consecutive days Apple ibook laptops had been significant presences on London's concert platforms (see Darbar Indian Music Festival at the Purcell Room). Barley had pre-programmed varied sound worlds for each of his interludes, but the actual notes were produced spontaneously at the moment of playing. They proved to be suitably restful by contrast with the busy Bach preludes and the programme as a whole deserves to be recorded for CD or, better DVD.

Peter Grahame Woolf

A BBCR3 recording of this recital, presented by Sean Rafferty, is available on BBCR3 Listen Again until Monday 20 March.

See also review in Classical Source