Worthy of the master
An incomparable recital by
Casals competition winner Claudio Bohorquez,
reviewed by LAWRENCE BUDMEN
Pablo Casals (1876-1973) revolutionized the cello as a solo instrument. The great Catalan cellist brought a new level of virtuosity and depth to this dark toned string instrument. (Casals was also a superb conductor and a talented composer. He was an artist of the highest moral principle. Casals refused to perform in countries that recognized Spain's fascist government of Francisco Franco.) In the 1920s Casals revived the six suites for solo cello of Johann Sebastian Bach. These groundbreaking works had not been performed in over a century. Cellists of an earlier generation (if they were at all familiar with Bach's suites) considered these works to be unplayable and musically dull and academic. With his vibrant, invigorating performances (and recordings) Casals proved that all Bach's scores needed was an interpreter of daring musical imagination and formidable technical accomplishment. (Casals's recordings of the Bach suites, Dvorak's Cello Concerto, and the bogus Boccherini Cello Concerto set the standard by which all future performances would be judged.) The brilliant young cellist Claudio Bohorquez was the winner of the Pablo Casals International Cello Competition in 2000. Casals's Gofriller cello is now Bohorquez's instrument. Bach's Suite No 3 in C, BWV 1009, was the centerpiece of Bohorquez's stellar recital on 12 August 2004 at Coral Gables Congregational Church in the USA. In the tradition of Casals, Bohorquez proved to be an artist of incomparable magnitude.
From the first notes of the Prelude, Bohorquez brought spirited intensity, impeccable technique, and a deeply personal approach to Bach's music. Where other performances tend to be mere technical approximations of Bach's musical notations, Bohorquez transformed the score into an unforgettable artistic experience -- a journey that transcended Baroque style to create something new and striking. Bohorquez's aristocratic phrasing of the Allemande reawakened the music's dance rhythms. His broad, elegantly sculptured approach to the Sarabande produced one of those rare moments when time seemed transfixed -- a performance of truly spiritual sublimity! The subtle grace of the Courante and the beautifully elongated line of the two Bourrees were the hallmark of a musician of rare artistry! The Rococo verve of the concluding Gigue was utterly infectious in Bohorquez's masterful hands. Like the German cellist Christoph Henkel's performance of Bach's Suite No 1 at the Sarasota Music Festival in June 2004, this was music making worthy of the master Casals himself! An eloquent, otherworldly performance of a musical treasure! (This superb version of the Bach suite was dedicated to the memory of the late Miami Herald music critic James Roos.)
Copyright © 31 August 2004
Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA