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Even at the best of times, in the best of circumstances, Bach's sixth is probably the most challenging of the suites this composer wrote for solo cello. Originally written for a unique five-string cello, and starting with a gigue in twelve-eight time, the prelude is particularly demanding with its ascending motifs. That Gerhardt chose this as an encore speaks for his quality and confidence as a cellist, for the complex barriolage came with technical accuracy, even at this late hour, and was accompanied by an impeccable bowing technique.

'I learned to perfect my bowing technique from Boris Pergamenschikow when I was his student in Cologne,' Gerhardt said after the performance. 'He taught me to glide the bow smoothly down toward the strings rather than come down with force. It was a matter of leading the bow first toward and then into the cello, as though gently dipping into water without causing a splash.'

Gerhardt's interview with members of the local media after his in Munich performance. Photo © 2008 Frank Langbein
Gerhardt's interview with members of the local media after his in Munich performance. Photo © 2008 Frank Langbein

Isserlis, who has his own interpretation of the Bach suites and gives them a religious overtone, called the 6th one Resurrection. Gerhardt, in playing the prelude, is not far off: there is considerable tragedy in his interpretation, coupled with a sense of final overcoming -- drama in its purest form, with a triumph of hope breaking through at the end.

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Copyright © 14 June 2008 Tess Crebbin, Munich, Germany

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