J.S. Bach: Suites for Solo Cello

Philip Higham’s debut recording, a disc of Benjamin Britten’s three solo suites, won acclaim across the board, including Disc of the Month accolades from both Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine. He has chosen to follow it directly with the Bach suites which were Britten’s inspiration, and which remain pinnacles of the repertoire for any cellist. Higham has returned to Anna Magdalena Bach’s manuscript copy of the works, recently the object of some controversy.

For Higham, however, the manuscript is a provocation not to speculation over authorship but to interpretations at once broadly and deeply conceived. Not afraid to question received wisdom, Higham’s thoughtful yet daring approach also leads him to combine elements of period and modern style both in his playing and in his choice of instruments – a 1697 cello for the first five suites and a 2013 five-string instrument to bring out the extraordinary range of colours with which Bach invested the crowning Sixth.

"Here's a snapshot of a highly gifted musician in the midst of an exploratory process…he's gone back to Anna Magdalena's copy, finding a variant of the opening material in the D major Prelude which adds a piquant suspension to the pattern. Higham has also absorbed its asymmetric implied bowings, bringing a fascinating, fluid tension to the G major Prelude, in particular."

"an impressive account with much to teach us about the music...poised, thoughtful, exploratory and sometimes effervescent...another perceptive and rewarding traversal of the set"

"Higham plays his usual warm and fulsome Testore for Suites Nos. 1 to 5 but swaps to a clean and crisp modern five-string Roth cello for the filigree Sixth Suite. It is hard to imagine how Higham could have done better than choose these very different instruments to elicit the combinations of tone and colour that he is able to achieve across the Suites."

"What’s most impressive about these compelling readings is that Higham avoids the romanticist’s self-indulgently furrowed brow without sacrificing intensity"

"There’s a beautifully meditative quality to these performances of Bach’s solo cello Suites by Philip Higham that is both soothing and questioning … the entire set displays a seamless flow of invention that takes us from the pragmatic virtuosity of the 1st to the heart-tugging emotion of the 6th as if on a life’s journey. Higham’s use of a 5-string instrument in the latter endows the finale of this 2-CD set with a prophetic, luminescent glow"

"The character he finds throughout this music is consistently revealing...unpretentious depths and organic, naturalistic flow: the highest possible recommendation."

"I reckon Higham could just have been handed a twig from a tree and he would have made beautiful music!…I will be impressed if he can better these renditions."


"The soloist's wise and daring approach also leads him to combine elements of period and modern style both in his playing and in his choice of instruments...A glorious addition to the Suites' catalogue and most certainly not one too many."


"Comparisons should be invidious, but many great names of cello-yore are embarrassed by playing of such uncomplicated good taste and technical refinement."


Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): Church of St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, London
Recording dates: 2-4 August 2014, 19-21 November 2014 and 2 February 2015
Physical format: Jewel case (slimline double)
Number of discs: 2
Number of tracks: 36
Release date: 31 July 2015
Total playing time: 2:10:37
Album ID: DCD34150

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