Grace, charm and brilliance

All these were present in abundance on the evening of Saturday 18th April, when internationally renowned ‘cellist Natalie Clein mesmerised a capacity audience in St Andrew’s Church.

On an instrument made by Guadagnini in Turin in 1777 (known as “the Simpson”) she drew the intricacies, complexities and delights of the Bach Suites for solo ‘cello numbers 3, 5 and 4 in that order.

They were probably written before 1720 and perhaps for an instrument quite different from the predecessor to the ‘cello, the viola da gamba.   What precisely Bach had in mind and for what and for whom remains the subject of scholarly dispute since no original Bach manuscript exists.   However we can be pretty sure that his second wife who wrote out the manuscripts probably got it right!   (Some commentators even think she may have written them!)

They were very little performed before Pablo Casals found, at the age of 13, a copy of the manuscript in a junk shop in Barcelona.   He popularised them and was still practising them shortly before his death at 96 “Because I think I’m improving”.

It is difficult to contemplate Natalie Clein’s improving – such is her pre-eminence in her field – but she is clearly in the Casals’ mould in commitment and, in the view of many, his master in brilliance.

All the Suites follow a similar pattern proceeding from prelude to allemande to courante to sarabande to bourée or gavotte and to final gigue – every element demanding technical brilliance and emotional immersion.   The audience was almost overwhelmed by these qualities so delightfully demonstrated by the artiste who, though only 38, has achieved international fame.   Between Germany the week before and Austria the following week Natalie found St Andrew’s acoustics and ambience and the appreciation of Curry Rivel Music’s supporters a worthwhile outlet for her talents.

Review by Malcom Cotterill

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