BBC Music Magazine: Double 5 Stars
During their first 200 years, Johann Sebastian Bach's solo suites for cello led a curiously obscure existence. By 1720, the time of their composition, suites of their kind were already beginning to seem slightly outdated, &&&and many of the dances which in stylized form appear in them were going out of fashion. Furthermore, the cello was generally regarded as a continuo instrument, and pieces allowing it a more prominent role were few and far between. In consequence, the suites were rarely performed - especially in their entirety - and rather treated as more suited for teaching the instrument. They were also often regarded as incomplete, and the fact that Schumann, among others, attempted to provide them with piano accompaniments serves as an illustration of how foreign the concept of solo works for the cello remained. It is Pablo Casals who is credited with the rediscovery of the cello suites: encountering them in the 1890's, he first brought them to the concert hall around the turn of the century. Soon after, in 1916, came the first published edition of the suites arranged for the viola. But again they were mainly seen as learning aids for budding violists, and it is only during the past decades that they have become part of the concert and recording repertoire of international soloists on the instrument. The latest of these is the highly regarded Ukrainian-born violist Maxim Rysanov, who in 2008 received a Gramophone Award as 'Young Artist of the Year'. Rysanov's career has developed rapidly, with acclaimed recordings and high profile appearances, including the Last Night of the BBC Proms in 2010. For his first recording for BIS he has selected the first, fourth and fifth of Bach's suites - these works of which Casals once wrote: 'They are the very essence of Bach, and Bach is the essence of music.'