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Alio modo, October 2009 editorial (“Essential recording”)

For many of us, Pablo Casals’s legendary interpretation of Bach’s six cello suites—the 1930s recordings that showcased these works as far more than mere finger exercises for cellists—are still definitive. Casals rediscovered these previously appreciated compositions and did his damnedest to illustrate their importance. Hence, his bold, romantic interpretations, which may lack subtlety but certainly not substance or grace. With Naxos’s new remastering from audio producer Ward Marston, this bargain-priced recording makes a vast improvement on EMI’s more expensive version of these exact same recordings (and a subtle improvement over Pearl’s even pricier remastering). Here, you can finally turn up the stereo and get the full sonic depth of these recordings without fatiguing your ears from a ton of surface noise. Instead, you simply get lost in Casals’s flowing, passionate playing and impeccable tone. This has always been a landmark recording and it’s never sounded better than this.

Michael Bailey
Kulture Revolution, May 2007

There are recorded sets of Bach’s Cello Suites that have much better sonics. There are sets that view Bach from the vantage point of Haydn and those from Vivaldi. But Casal’s 1930s set were the first sound recordings to begin the deluge of recordings described above. It was Casal’s scholarship and technical ability that allowed him to resurrect music old and forgotten as Mendelssohn had done 100 years before him with the Master’s St. Matthew Passion. Casal’s suites, beaming in from almost a century ago, define what depth and density mean when applied to the performance of music and the understanding of that performed. This is music of our collective unconscious, part of all of us.

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Robert Stumpf II
Classical Net, April 2001

"Casals was one of the greatest musicians of this century and here you will hear why. If you have never heard this music before, you are in for a treat."

George Dorris
Ballet Review, April 2001

"In the six remarkable suites for unaccompanied cello, more recent cellists can delight with a more smiling approach to these dances."

Leslie Gerber
Fanfare, March 2001

“It’s hard to resist the disc, at its low price, …it also includes Kreisler’s 1927 version of the Brahms Violin concerto, his best performance of the piece, and one of its most moving recordings ever. (It also includes the Schumann Romance, which served as a filler on the odd side of the original 78–rpm issue.) Leo Blech’s conducting in the Brahms is another major positive factor. Again, Obert–Thorn’s restorations are exemplary.”

David Moore
American Record Guide, March 2001

“These classic readings of the Bach cello suites are beautifully transferred here, aided by the unerring ear of Ward Marston. Casals was the first to take this music seriously and his performances are still stirring, though I notice his occasional expressive approach to intonation more than I once did before note–perfect cellists appeared on the scene.

The set is further enhanced by the inclusion of five other Casals Bach performances with piano from the late 20s, mostly in Siloti arrangements. All of these are in well–balanced recordings, meaning that they are not sanitized. A certain amount of surface noise remains, but that means that there is realistic body to the sound and the highs are not thrown out along with the surface noise. It sounds much as my original 78s of these performances did. The surface noise does not disappear between sides, so it is easy to ignore. In other words, these are some of the most effective realizations of these recordings I have heard.”

Peter Dobrin
The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 2000

“Ward Marston, the local sound restorer, has taken the Casals HMV recordings from the 1930s of the Bach cello suites and expertly cleaned them up. Casals’ sound is dry and clean, revealing a kind of purity and technical honesty. A slight atmospheric background hiss does nothing to hinder the remarkable clarity.”

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