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Bach - Suites For Solo Cello No. 2 & No. 5 / Starker - Super Hot Stamper
Bach - Suites For Solo Cello No. 2 & No. 5 / Starker - Super Hot Stamper

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Super Hot Stamper

Bach
Suites For Solo Cello No. 2 & No. 5 / Starker

Regular price
$449.99
Regular price
Sale price
$449.99
Unit price
per 
Availability
Sold out

Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*

  • An early Mercury label pressing of Starker's legendary 1963 recording of Bach's sublime music for solo cello with solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them from top to bottom
  • Suite No. 5 takes up all of this superb Double Plus side two, and we guarantee you've never heard it sound this good
  • True, side one earned a minimal Hot Stamper grade of 1.5+, but we are very confidant that it will beat the pants off any Heavy Vinyl reissue, especially one by Speakers Corner, because every one of those that we played was opaque, muddy and thick enough to have us crying "uncle" after five minutes

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750) / More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

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*NOTE: This record was not noisy enough to rate our M-- to EX++ grade, but it's not quite up to our standards for Mint Minus Minus either. If you're looking for quiet vinyl, this is probably not the best copy for you.


This vintage Mercury pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performance, and feeling as if you are listening live in Geneva's Victoria Hall, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Starker's Suites For Cello Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange -- with the organ having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the hall

No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we've heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Standard Operating Procedures

What are sonic qualities by which a record -- any record -- should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.

When we can get a number of these qualities to come together on the side we’re playing, we provisionally give it a ballpark Hot Stamper grade, a grade that is often revised during the shootout as we hear what the other copies are doing, both good and bad.

Once we’ve been through all the side ones, we play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Other copies from earlier in the shootout will frequently have their grades raised or lowered based on how they sounded compared to the eventual shootout winner. If we’re not sure about any pressing, perhaps because we played it early on in the shootout before we had learned what to listen for, we take the time to play it again.

Repeat the process for side two and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.

It may not be rocket science, but it’s a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing -- or your money back.

What We're Listening For On Starker's Suites For Cello

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the organ.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.

Side One - Suite No. 2

  • Prelude
  • Allemande
  • Courante
  • Sarabande
  • Minuet I / II
  • Gigue

Side Two - Suite No. 5

  • Prelude
  • Allemande
  • Courante
  • Sarabande
  • Gavotte I / II
  • Gigue

Cello Suites (Bach)

The six Cello Suites, BWV 1007–1012, are suites for unaccompanied cello by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). They are some of the most frequently performed solo compositions ever written for cello. Bach most likely composed them during the period 1717–1723, when he served as Kapellmeister in Köthen. The title given on the cover of the Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript was Suites à Violoncello Solo senza Basso (Suites for cello solo without bass).

As usual in a Baroque musical suite, after the prelude which begins each suite, all the other movements are based around baroque dance types. The cello suites are structured in six movements each: prelude, allemande, courante, sarabande, two minuets or two bourrées or two gavottes, and a final gigue.Gary S. Dalkin of MusicWeb International called Bach's cello suites "among the most profound of all classical music works" and Wilfrid Mellers described them in 1980 as "Monophonic music wherein a man has created a dance of God."

Due to the works' technical demands, étude-like nature, and difficulty in interpretation because of the non-annotated nature of the surviving copies and the many discrepancies between them, the cello suites were little known and rarely publicly performed in the modern era until they were recorded by Pablo Casals (1876–1973) in the early 20th century. They have since been performed and recorded by many renowned cellists and have been transcribed for numerous other instruments; they are considered some of Bach's greatest musical achievements.

History

An exact chronology of the suites (regarding both the order in which the suites were composed and whether they were composed before or after the solo violin sonatas) cannot be completely established. Scholars generally believe that—based on a comparative analysis of the styles of the sets of works—the cello suites arose first, effectively dating the suites earlier than 1720, the year on the title page of Bach's autograph of the violin sonatas.

The suites were not widely known before the early 20th century. It was Pablo Casals who first began to popularize the suites, after discovering an edition by Friedrich Grützmacher (who was the first cellist to perform an entire Bach suite) in a thrift shop in Barcelona in 1889 when he was 13. Although Casals performed the suites publicly, it was not until 1936, when he was 60 years old, that he agreed to record them, beginning with Suites Nos. 2 and 3, at Abbey Road Studios in London. The other four were recorded in Paris: 1 and 6 in June 1938, and 4 and 5 in June 1939. Casals became the first to record all six suites; his recordings are still available and respected today. In 2019, the Casals recording was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Structure

The suites are in six movements each, and have the following structure and order of movements.

  • Prelude
  • Allemande
  • Courante
  • Sarabande
  • Galanteries: two minuets in each of Suite Nos. 1 and 2; two bourrées in each of Suite Nos. 3 and 4; two gavottes in each of Suite Nos. 5 and 6
  • Gigue

Scholars believe that Bach intended the works to be considered as a systematically conceived cycle, rather than an arbitrary series of pieces. Compared to Bach's other suite collections, the cello suites are the most consistent in order of their movements. In addition, to achieve a symmetrical design and go beyond the traditional layout, Bach inserted intermezzo or galanterie movements in the form of pairs between the sarabande and the gigue.

Only five movements in the entire set of suites are completely non-chordal, meaning that they consist only of a single melodic line. These are the second minuet of Suite No. 1, the second minuet of Suite No. 2, the second bourrée of Suite No. 3, the gigue of Suite No. 4, and the sarabande of Suite No. 5. The second gavotte of Suite No. 5 has but one unison chord (the same note played on two strings at the same time), but only in the original scordatura version of the suite; in the standard tuning version it is completely free of chords.

Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008

The Prelude consists of two parts, the first of which has a strong recurring theme that is immediately introduced in the beginning. The second part is a scale-based cadenza movement that leads to the final, powerful chords. The subsequent allemande contains short cadenzas that stray away from this otherwise very strict dance form. The first minuet contains demanding chord shiftings and string crossings.

Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011

Suite No. 5 was originally written in scordatura with the A-string tuned down to G, but nowadays a version for standard tuning is included in almost every printed edition of the suites along with the original version. Some chords must be simplified when playing with standard tuning, but some melodic lines become easier as well.

The Prelude is written in an A–B form, and is a French overture. It begins with a slow, emotional movement that explores the deep range of the cello. After that comes a fast and very demanding single-line fugue that leads to the powerful end.

This suite is most famous for its intimate sarabande, which is one of the few movements in the six suites that does not contain any double stops (chords). Mstislav Rostropovich described it as the essence of Bach's genius. Paul Tortelier viewed it as an extension of silence. Rostropovich, extending Tortelier's "silence" to an extreme, would sometimes play the Sarabande as a recital encore at a metronome marking of 32 or slower, one note per beat, with no vibrato and no slurs, each note standing alone in a "well of silence."

The 5th Suite is also exceptional as its courante and gigue are in the French style, rather than in the Italian form of the other five suites.

-Wikipedia