The Strad issue
Joseph Elworthy (cello)
Casals used to allude to the ever-changing face of the Bach suites, making the idea of committing one single view of these works to a recording a somewhat daunting process. Canadian cellist Joseph Elworthy, however, presents persuasive interpretations that have clearly evolved after a considerable degree of thought. Characterisation is vivid and the dance elements lucidly brought out, while the part-writing within the single line is depicted with incision. Elworthy also manages to bring a cogent vision to each suite, creating a sharply defined approach that percolates through even the most rustic of movements. He is particularly impressive in the Fifth Suite, which is by turns introvert and melancholic or bold and dramatic. Here, and equally in the Sixth Suite, the slightly reverberant recording serves the double-stops well, allowing even greater connection to form the line.
Perhaps in a way this recording is in the best tradition of portraits in that we are eavesdropping on a moment of intimate music-making. I always think that the Second Suite is very much in that category, with its mournful quality allowing the player scope for poetic insight. Here Elworthy is impressively expressive yet contained and never yielding to mannered excess. The organ-like preludes of the Fourth and First Suites are drawn with surgical precision and the landmark harmonic moments well signposted, making these interpretations an impressive achievement.