A newcomer cellist makes his mark in a much-recorded repertoire

Filipe Quaresma: Bach

The Strad Issue: March 2024

Description: A newcomer makes his mark in a much-recorded repertoire

Musicians: Filipe Quaresma (cello)

Works: Bach: Cello Suites BWV1007–12

Catalogue number: ARTWAY NEXT 52023 (2 CDs)

Portuguese cellist Filipe Quaresma offers a highly personal, historically informed approach to these works, performing throughout on a much treasured, four-stringed instrument – the c.1720 ‘ex-Suggia’ Montagnana, reconverted to a Baroque set-up. He employs appropriate period techniques and produces an unforced, lucid sound, playing with incisive articulation and a clean, accurate left-hand technique, save for some brief passages in no.6’s challenging Prelude and Gavottes. He especially demonstrates his Baroque sensibility and care for detail in realising the relative importance of notes within phrases. Although he occasionally over-phrases – which can endanger forward momentum, as, for example, in no.1’s Allemande – there’s an overall rhetorical freedom that sounds refreshingly improvisatory and allows the music to breathe, particularly in the Preludes. His execution of the chords in no.6’s Sarabande has striking expressive effect, and those in the ensuing Gavotte I provide a pleasing rhythmic momentum.

His tempos, generally thoughtfully determined, are largely faithful to most movements’ dance roots. Gigues are suitably lively, especially the exuberant one in no.4, but the Courantes of Suites nos. 1, 4 and 6 seem scrambled in places. His accounts of the Sarabandes are profound and reflective without being weighty – sample his moving readings of those of nos.3 and 5 – and his Allemandes are graceful and poised. Extempore ornamentation is added tastefully, but sparingly.

The close recording, captured in an accommodating monastery acoustic, is pleasingly reverberant, but Quaresma’s audible intakes of breath and the percussive clatter of his finger-stopping often intrude upon the listening experience. The sparse booklet information incorporates some awkward English translation.