‘Her playing is absorbing and sensitive, full of insightful phrasing, reflective subtlety, and, when suggested, joie de vivre…As she savours the transcendent unfolding of material, Mercer draws the listener deeply into Bach’s singular galaxy.’ Gramophone, Aug. 2014
Catalogue no. PIP 1403 (2 CDs)
BACH SUITES FOR SOLO CELLO is performed by RACHEL MERCER, one of Canada’s most celebrated cellists whose career as a soloist and chamber musician has taken her across five continents. This recording is Mercer’s second solo recording, and features all six of Bach’s remarkable suites on two discs.
Rachel Mercer performs this iconic music on the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius cello, an exquisite instrument loaned to her between 2009 and 2012 by the Canada Council Instrument Bank. Describing her first encounter with the cello, Mercer says, “I still remember drawing the open C-string and feeling the quivering life of this beautiful instrument, an instrument which had already been alive for 20 years when these Suites were written.” Composed around 1720, Bach’s solo cello suites have been a part of Rachel Mercer’s musical life since her earliest days in Suzuki class. Eventually she studied and performed them all, and throughout her illustrious and varied career she has always come back to these pieces for the grounding, peace and focus they provide. This recording is a testament to Mercer’s personal journey with Bach, and a memento of her three years with the Bonjour Stradivarius cello.
In her notes for this CD, Mercer expresses the hope that her listeners “may find some connection to this music that resonates deep within, as I have had the great fortune to experience.” In this recording, which captures the energy and atmosphere of an intimate live performance, she offers us a masterful, insightful and deeply personal rendition of these celebrated suites.
Suite in C, BWV 1009 – Bourrées I and II
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‘Toronto cellist Rachel Mercer is one brave artist, daring us to ask whether the world really needs another recording of J.S. Bach’s six great suites for unaccompanied cello – and supplying an emphatic, compelling Yes in her own interpretation. In more than two hours of some of the most beautiful and most difficult music ever written for a solo performer, Mercer reminds us that the interpreter can be as much of a creator, not just a re-creator, as the composer. She also reminds us that, with enough preparation, a fine artist can make the most challenging material come across with the ease of natural breathing…Much of the music on the two CDs released on Toronto’s independent Pipistrelle label sounds like it could have been recorded between conversations over steaming cups of green tea…this album is worth savouring over and over again…Bach set the narrative in each six-movement suite like the ideal story, interweaving tighter, faster sections with slower, more reflective music. Mercer colors in the textures, while subtly reminding us of the thematic threads that link each movement. Nothing on Mercer’s album sounds like work. The timeless music, on the verge of its 300th birthday (we assume), natural, emerges relaxed and deeply connected with the Baroque dance styles that informed Bach’s writing. At first listen, Mercer’s style is almost wanton in its desire to dance and sing, but by the time the two hours are up, she has us in her arms, dancing along.’ John Terauds, Musical Toronto
‘Rachel Mercer’s new release on the Pipistrelle label (PIP1403) is her September 2011 recording from Walter Hall of the Suites on the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius cello, which was on loan to her from the Canada Council from 2009 to 2012. Mercer felt an immediate affinity with the instrument, and began performing the Suites on it as often as possible. It certainly has a big, strong sound, with a good deal of bite that sounds almost rough in places. Mercer’s approach is quite slow and introspective, although the dance movements have a nice line, and it’s clearly a very personal journey for her.’ The Wholenote, March 2014
‘…Not only is this recording a marvel of vintage instrumentation and modern engineering techniques, it is also a testimony to the power of the composer’s enduring relevance in the information age. Even listeners unfamiliar with Bach’s oeuvre will no doubt recognize many of these pieces, including the opening movement of Suite No. 1 in G major, which arrives with the familiarity of an old friend. The sonorous quality of the production is due in no small part to Mercer’s use of the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius Cello, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank. To draw an analogy, hearing the dark, rich, full tone of the instrument is as sweet to ear as tasting chocolate for the first time. Delicious.’ Chris Morgan, London (ON) Scene, April 2014