First published in the Guardian on 10 December, 2017
Bach: Cello Suites
Thomas Demenga (ECM)
“If I don’t feel too good,” divulges Swiss cellist Thomas Demenga, “I go to my studio and play one or two suites — it’s a mental cleansing process.” Plenty of musicians turn to Bach for solace or recalibration; the question is who can translate that personal connection into something usefully meaningful to other people. Demenga’s second recording of the cello suites (his launched his first more than 30 years ago) is extrovert, assured and very much about him. He’s not shy of decorating Bach’s lines and tugging them about; he pushes and circles and skits so that even the profound Sarabandes trot along at a wilful clip. The cello sound is beautiful for its grit, grain and sinew, and the fact this recording was done live in concert means we get exciting squalls, adrenalin and spontaneity. It’s an impressive performance, no doubt, but I had a creeping feeling it was more about the singer than the song.