Need a Recommendation for Classical Cello...


I am interested in locating some recordings (CD Only, please) of performances of unaccompanied cello. I obtained a recording of Bach's Cello Suites (1 - 6) but am looking for something a little different.

I am hoping to find something that is less 'busy' as these selections. Something haunting or melancholy. If this exists (By any composer) please let me know.

Also, I hope to find a recording of an acoustic cello, not electric.

Thanks very much!

Brad Day
Atlanta, GA
I think what you're looking for are probably some of the best cello concertos (cello with orchestra) or cello sonatas (cello with piano), not unaccompanied cello, because just about the only pieces for unaccompanied cello are the Bach suites that you don't seem to like. You're looking for something "haunting and melancholy," so I'd suggest you try the Dvorak and Elgar cello concertos. Both are among the greatest music written for the instrument, and have the qualities I think you're looking for. If this sounds interesting and you want to pursue it, I can recommend some specific CD performances of these works. (And don't worry about acoustic cello versus electric cello. In the world of classical music, there is no such animal as electric cello, thank God!)
Which Bach cello suites? My favorite are the old analog Mercury Living Presence from the early 60's with Janos Starker which are available on CD.

Unaccompanied classical cello works are a hard find. Most CD recordings are just the Bach. There is a recording by Colin Carr featuring Britten and Crumb.

For other great cello works while not totally unaccompanied try...

Brahms sonatas for cello and piano (cello sonatas) with Emmanuel Ax piano & Yo Yo Ma cello; on RCA/BMG and available from the Musical Heritage Society.

Faure' and Franck Cello Sonatas played by Shauna Rolston cello; with Menahem Pressler piano (of the Beaux Arts Trio).

While not pure classical you could check out some of Yo Yo Ma's CDs like.

Silk Road Project CDs
Obrigado Brazil
Plays Ennio Morricone
"The Swan" by Saint-Saens for Cello and Piano. Gorgeous. Yo Yo has a good one.
Jacqueline DuPre playing any work for cello is a MUST! Many CDs available featuring this one-of-a-kind musician.
Janos Starker playing Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello by Zoltan Kodaly is incredible. I wouldn't say less "busy" though - if anything, it's a bit more "out there". But it's absolutely a must have for cello enthusiasts. I only have it on the original Westminster vinyl, so I can't vouch for the CD versions but here are a couple of them:

While not unaccompanied, probably the closest to what you're looking for as a composer is David Popper, who wrote a good deal of "romantic" cello music in the late 1800's. Most of it was beautiful music for cello and piano. (He married a student of Liszt's and performed mostly with her). Here's a link to his Bio:

My favorite Popper recording is unfortunately only on vinyl, but I'm sure there are some great CD's out there4. Here's a Delos CD of Starker playing Popper which I'm sure is quite nice:

Hope this helps.
Yo-Yo Ma has an album called "Solo," which features only works for unaccompanied cello. However, the selections include composers like Kodaly and Sheng, which might not be what you are looking for. Nonetheless, it's an option, and you might find some new composers that you like...

I would also second the above recommendations of the Dvorak and Elgar concertos, as well as the Brahms sonatas. I would add to that the Barber cello concerto and sonata, the Lalo concerto, and the Schumann concerto. The Schumann, in particular, is an unabashadly romantic, beautiful piece.

On the less lush, romantic side, Tchaikovsky's Rococco Variations are beautiful, as are Haydn's two cello concertos (the D major has a melancholy tinge to it). Beethoven's five cello sonatas are wonderful, and he also composed a set of three variations for cello and piano that are charming.

As far as cellists go, here are a few names to look for: Yo-Yo Ma (obviously), Paul Tortelier (relatively unknown, but terrific), Jacqueline du Pre (especially for the Elgar), Mstislav Rostropovich (Dvorak and Tchaikovsky), Pierre Fournier (along with Tortelier, my two favorites for the Bach Suites), and Ralph Kirschbaum (excellent Elgar and Barber).

These are just a few suggestions... there are so many options! I hope you enjoy the process of discovering more of what's out there for this wonderful instrument.

Happy Listening,
Thanks, everyone!

WHOA! Hold on there, pardner, don't go away yet. My favorite is Bach's cello concertos by Pablo Casals. (I dislike Yo-Yo Ma - too technical.)
For something ranging between semi-classical and pops, you might just enjoy Julian Weber's 'Travels with my Cello'. Some very nice warm melodies there.

I particularly liked Jacqueline DuPre's BBC recordings...

For some variety with viola da gamba - check out the haunting 'Amor Cruel' with Les Voix Humaines - there are some vocals there, but the deep, mellow, cello-like strings have the lead...
Benjamin Britten's cello suites are quite different from the Bach ones. You might like them.
This falls in between Jazz and classical genre, but Dave Holland's "Life Cycle" is absolutley amazing.
Not entirely solo cello, but may well suit what you're looking for:

Music for a Glass Bead Game, Nathaniel Rosen, cellist, and Arturo Delmoni, violinist, (John Marks Records) (link)

Reverie: Cello Music for Quiet Times, Nathaniel Rosen, cellist, with guest (John Marks Records) (link)

Rosen Plays Brahms, Nathaniel Rosen, cellist, with Doris Stevenson, piano (John Marks Records) (link)

Orientale, short works for cello, Nathaniel Rosen, cellist, with Doris Stevenson, piano, (North Star Records) (link)
Highly recomended (seconded) Les Voix Humaines (not cello, but Viola da Gamba).

On the same note:
Marin Marais: Pièces de Viole du Second Livre, 1701 and Mr. de Sainte Colombe le Fils: Pièces de Viole (I purchased the two in a boxed set), also performed by Jordi Savall. Though not cello, I think this is just what you are looking for...haunting and beautiful.

In my opinion, one of the great records of all time: The Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet, on A+M Records, and recently released on CD on Verve. It's from the 70's---it sounds fresher than anything I've heard since---a beautiful, smart, lyrical, acoustic blend of classical, jazz, pop, and "new-age" (before all the not-so-talented musicians who couldn't really play jazz or classical music took that genre over). Roger Kellaway is an unsung master pianist, and composed all the music on this album for piano, bass (the late, great Chuck Domanico), percussion (Emil Richards), and the late cellist, Edgar Lustgarten, whose playing will make you cry. This music is unlike anything you have ever heard, or ever will hear. I first heard it in high school as a beginning musician, and 30 years later, I probably still put it on at least once a month. It changed my life forever. If it's beautiful, heart-felt music for cello you are seeking---this is it. JH