David Geringas is very much of the school of his teacher Rostropovich when it comes to the Bach Suites: the speeds are very fast, and they have a masculine edge to them that may be more aggressive than some palates can support. But where Rostropovich projects through the phrases, Geringas is more prone to distraction, with the hiatuses of his phrases more often signifying frustrating pauses than lilts that gracefully encourage the music to its conclusion.
Given that the Bach Cello Suites were not performed as a complete set until Pablo Casals presented them as such in 1950, it’s unsurprising that one of the challenges inherent in the recording of a complete set is avoiding making them too dry or relentless. One way of managing that, of course, is to intersperse them with other works, and that well-used trick is one that makes this disc a testament to the breadth of Geringas’s inquisitiveness. Contemporary music is a particularly effective pairing with Bach, and each of the Suites is interspersed with one of a corresponding eight free-standing pieces written within Geringas’s lifetime. That said, it’s not so much a question of the new contextualising the old as of music written without the rules by which Bach operated being among the only music that can stand next to Bach’s and hold its head up.
The interwoven pieces here tend to fare better the less they rely on technical devices and aural effect, and as a result the third of Sofia Gubaidulina’s 10 Preludes is probably the most complementary of the pieces garlanded round the Bach. It leads perfectly into the D minor Suite, in both tone and harmonic spread. Fancy on a Bach Air by John Corigliano – one of the two newest pieces on this disc, alongside Anatolijus Šenderovas’s Interludium – is similarly effective and is where the listener will hear Geringas’s best playing on this disc. These small bagatelles show him at his most energetic and attentive to the minutiae of the music itself, whereas although in the Suites themselves Geringas is extraordinarily precise and clear – despite one or two tiny staggers on Bach’s fleet-footed rhythmic corners, of which the Allemande of No 4 is a particular example – he can sound less engaged, sometimes stopping only slightly shy of glib.