Wigmore Hall Live documents Colin Carr’s complete Bach cello suites on two consecutive performances in May 2012. Though he is among England’s pre-eminent performers whose reputation is haloed by a stellar pedigree, his pronouncements of this music are, more than intellectually chewy, too often gummy. His Bach is well-seasoned, with a career's worth of traversals in the cultural capitals of the world, but his anxiety producing entrapments made a second hearing more than enough.
Though he is esteemed for his probity, I take umbrage at his preachy scholasticisms, despite their formal clarity. His attitude of a well-worn lecturer makes me question where the line is drawn between an informed interpretation and a displeasing one. This introduces many dichotomies: the rhythmic distortions used to clarify harmonic contrapuntal structures; conspicuous mannerisms favored by cellists, among them blaring open strings and tones denuded by non-vibrato (or strangled by it) and the self involved music making at the expense of a small dedicated public.
We should be accorded the privilege of listening to the cellist’s private communion with the divine. Instead, we hear a smugly satisfied interpretation delivered with hapless tone, elucidating cosmic appropriations of effortfully stylized dance forms and ideas made manifest by the aforementioned techniques.
What to make of repetitions that coerce the flow of time into boxes? Ultimately these dialectics showcase Mr. Carr’s carefully considered efforts less favorably than the candelabras and costumes of Liberace’s spectacles.
There are deeply satisfying movements that reward Mr. Carr’s admirable ambitions when he is secure enough not to pontificate. Generally, the lively though winded gigues and penultimate dances provide a welcome relief from the pot-bellied sniveling slowly paced movements. The odiferous foghorn tones of the C minor sarabande made me turn away, but the rhapsodic prelude of the D minor suite could have been the rapture of an instructor’s daydream in a classroom full of dozing students.
One unequivocally praiseworthy facet of this album is the magnificent acoustic of Wigmore Hall, which so warmly cocoons the reedy thin sounds unhappily commanded from Mr. Carr’s fine Gofriller cello. To finance his valuable instrument he is dedicated to his students in important positions in prestigious institutions on two continents, as his less than endearing program notes proclaim.
The necessity to codify aesthetic views when assuming the responsibilities of teaching music often degrades to interpretive photocopying and can stultify the growth of the artist. Stuttering and stillborn, Mr. Carr’s arid style suits well in some few dances, so I’ll take Bach to task for not composing more pieces suitable to this cellist’s temperament.
I cannot recommend these CDs. Shit served fresh on fine china still steams. No, this is an artist I hope not to hear again anytime soon.