Six Cello Suites

Six Cello Suites


Artist: Richard Narroway

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

Format: 2 CDs


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There are a few iconic works in the core repertory with a special quality that makes them instantly recognizable, even after hearing just a few notes. The first G major Cello Suite is one of them. I like to think of the opening measures as a kind of entrance into the sound world of the cello; the open strings lift our spirits, resonating with the quintessential voice and depth of sonority we all know and love. It is so simple in its design, but so far-reaching in its vision, almost as if Bach is on a quest to discover the true potential of this instrument that has for too long been left in the background. As such, a feeling of birth and youthful discovery permeates the mood of this opening suite—a blissful disregard of any trials to come. And yet at the same time one gets the sensation that this is just the beginning of a larger journey.

Richard’s Approach: “For this recording, I use a modern setup: specifically a 1930 Carl Becker cello made in Chicago, and a modern bow. I admit that such a setup is quite far off from the sound world that Bach must have imagined when composing these suites. I have done my best, however, to balance this modern setup with a thorough understanding of Baroque stylistic principles, particularly in regard to sound production, bow strokes, vibrato, slurring, voicing, and ornaments. I think nowadays, our performance decisions tend to be too black and white; one either performs with total commitment to historical performance practice (by using gut strings, a baroque bow, lower tuning and no endpin) or one forgets all about it. I don’t think it is so simple! There is plenty of room, I think, to combine an understanding of historical stylistic principles with current trends in modern performance practice. It is by no means as simple as choosing one way or the other. I think ultimately, regardless of what kind of setup one uses, how much one vibrates and so on, the most important thing is that the spirit of the music comes to life, which is often more a matter of phrasing, sound, character, tempo and attention to harmony, than of specific issues of Baroque tuning and style. The very fact that Bach’s suites can still reveal their secrets through so many varied approaches is a testament to the genius of this music.

This is not to say that one should disregard any helpful musicological research that sheds light on performing traditions of the time. On the contrary, I think this is absolutely essential! There is nothing wrong with informing ourselves if the goal is to become more convincing, thoughtful artists. The information is there; why ignore it? At any rate, this kind of knowledge should not be confining. Rather, it should liberate us, for it offers an opportunity to open our minds and creative palettes to more colors and possibilities.”

Recognized for his stylistic versatility and wide-ranging musical interests, Australian cellist Richard Narroway has proven himself to be equally at home with repertoire both new and old. He has appeared as a soloist with the Grand Rapids Symphony and the HanZhou Philharmonic Orchestra, and in recital on Chicago’s WFMT  Dame Myra Hess Series and the Keys to the City Piano Festival at Chicago’s Symphony Center. In addition he has given performances in Australia, China, Germany, Canada and the United States, in prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center, Chicago Symphony Center, Preston Bradley Hall and the Sydney Opera House.

Track List

Suite For Cello Solo No. 1 in G Major BWV 1007
1. 1. Prélude 2:35
2. 2. Allemande 4:45
3. 3. Courante 2:58
4. 4. Sarabande 3:22
5. 5. Menuet I-II 3:46
6. 6. Gigue 1:50

Suite For Cello Solo No. 3 in C Major BWV 1009
7. 1. Prélude 4:06
8. 2. Allemande 4:55
9. 3. Courante 4:00
10. 4. Sarabande 4:45
11. 5. Bourrée I-II 5:12
12. 6. Gigue 2:47

Suite For Cello Solo No. 6 in D Major BWV 1012
13. 1. Prélude 3:35
14. 2. Allemande 4:20
15. 3. Courante 3:43
16. 4. Sarabande 4:55
17. 5. Gavotte I-II 4:14
18. 6. Gigue 3:33

Suite For Cello Solo No. 2 in D Minor BWV 1008
1. 1. Prélude 4:59
2. 2. Allemande 4:06
3. 3. Courante 2:10
4. 4. Sarabande 5:32
5. 5. Menuet I-II 3:02
6. 6. Gigue 2:58

Suite For Cello Solo No. 4 in E-Flat Major BWV 1010
7. 1. Prélude 6:24
8. 2. Allemande 6:27
9. 3. Courante 2:17
10. 4. Sarabande 3:58
11. 5. Bourrée I-II 5:33
12. 6. Gigue 2:31

Suite For Cello Solo No. 5 in C Minor BWV 1011
13. 1. Prélude 4:54
14. 2. Allemande 8:26
15. 3. Courante 4:06
16. 4. Sarabande 5:19
17. 5. Gavotte I-II 4:22
18. 6. Gigue 4:13

Total time: 1:15:10/1:15:52
Release date: September 22, 2017
UPC: 053479701022

Quotes & Reviews

…Richard Narroway, a purposeful Australian musician…with his wide musical vision neither plants his flag in the overworked ground of the historically accurate performance camp nor on the safe opposite side of that musical fence. By that we mean that he plays the music decisively, elegantly, accurately, respectfully but searching not for the “right way” but for his own way…

Rafael da Acha, Rafael’s Music Notes

I believe Richard Narroway has proven himself as an accomplished musician with his debut recording, featuring Bach’s suites for solo cello. His approach is contemporary, I believe, attempting to present the music in a clear and concise way, bridging the divide between the more romantic style of the mid-twentieth century with a historically-informed approach that today is as amply found in the catalogs of recordings. 

Sebastian Herrera, Audiophile Audition

Narroway’s tempos are carefully chosen, his reduced use of vibrato is admirable, his handling of ornamentation is intelligent and aware, and his overall interpretation of the suites’ movement sequences is carefully managed and creates a satisfying arc for each of the works.

Mark Estren, Infodad

The cellist rises to greatest heights in the sarabandes, especially in the Third Suite, where the music – at once grave and noble – requires a kind of mature patience that challenges every interpreter, regardless of age or approach. Narroway, only in his mid-twenties, honours Bach with artistry of captivating sensitivity.

Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone

Narroway has a lovely rich sound that never overwhelms, with beautiful phrasing and a fine rhythmic sense that is given room to breathe and expand. It’s all bursting with life and sounds quite effortless.

Terry Robbins, The WholeNote

It’s definitely a brave thing to record the complete Bach Cello Suites for your debut CD, but it seems like that’s Richard Narroway’s forte…

…a very good debut. If you need a new Australian take on the Suites, you’d do well to choose this.

Paul Ballam-Cross, Limelight

The double CD (SLE-70010) by Sono Luminus is not merely another one among dozens of recordings of these works, but a very fine debut by an immensely gifted young musician soon fit to keep company with some of the greats that preceded him.

Rafael da Acha, Rafael’s Music Notes

…he makes his instrument purr, growl, sing, yearn—in short, Narroway has at his disposal a sonic palette of many hues, each put at the expressive service of this sublime music. He manages, as all successful practitioners of this music must, to beguile us…

Greg Hettmansberger, What Greg Says

…dusky…inventive and tasteful…worth investigating for so many reason.

Steve Estep, The Absolute Sound (May/June 2018)

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