performers of bach's cello suites have found interpretive possibilities in them so widely differing from each other that to discuss them together may chance upon the arbitrary. keeping this in mind, i'll introduce these three vitally unique readings, and try to keep contact between them at the bare minimum necessary for me to keep this shit together. so, on one end of a spectrum, i would place pierre fournier, his solemnly slow tempi, and those phrasings of his that so thoroughly excise all the "danciness" from the works without mutating them into shapeless messes. some would say this renders his interpretation invalid, that it's that very danciness that constitutes the soul of the works; others, such as myself, would say "wow, who knew they didn't need to be so dancy? this is great!!". and really, fournier's rendering, if somewhat irrelevant to the original cultural derivations of the forms, surely can't be accused of irreverence; no other performance that i've heard shows a greater affinity for the tragic undercurrent of this music. okay, then somewhere toward the middle of this spectrum goes rostropovich: his even-paced, timbrally balanced, and wholly perspicacious performances—seemingly given to no stylistic excess (for in such an intimate account, there is nothing to embellish); these are many folks' first and still-favorite recordings of the cello suites and it's not without good reason! these have 'definitive' written all over them. finally, on the other end of this spectrum, my favorite (i almost wrote "my boyfriend" without thinking...), heinrich schiff, whose paradox here is this: he plays the suites really fast, yes, but rather than making them feel condensed or claustrophobic, they feel as spiritually light and open as anything that survives by the light of the sun. and it's not all levity either—schiff's sarabandes are deeply searching and he's certainly not afraid to lean into a chunky double-stop (i.e. "get his hands dirty") here and there. the emi recordings of schiff are also noteworthy for the truly lifelike character they preserve in the cello: the degree of detail is such that one may feel induced to fixate impossibly on every last pore in each sound issued from the great instrument. anyway, i don't think you can go wrong grabbing any one of these double discs, and you most assuredly can't go wrong grabbing all three : ) for fournier, hear. for rostropovich, hear. for schiff, hear.