Rare originals of this recording have been going on Ebay for upwards of $1,500. The sound quality and performance are absolutely to-die-for.
Today, it is difficult to understand that despite the tremendous Bach renaissance that took place in the 19th century, many compositions by the Cantor of St. Thomas' Church in Leipzig had been underrated. The Cello Suites, for example, have been regarded for almost 300 years as purely a set of tricky etudes that every virtuoso in the making simply must tackle. Janos Starker's recording of the Suites from 1965 makes a lasting impression on the listener, and even record producers who are well used to recorded excellence have been highly impressed. Starker's full-bodied sound and technical brilliance are complemented by his finely chiseled interpretation that lends immense expression to Bach's thrilling harmony and verve to the strict rhythmic construction of the movements.
Just listen to his organ-like double-stopped passages, the eloquent dialogues, and the pure excitement he conjures up with his bow. Then you will surely agree with the often-quoted paradox that Bach's Cello Suites are "polyphony for a solo instrument."
"The sound on this Speakers Corner reissue, mastered by Willem Makke at Universal's Berliner facility in Hanover, from Harold Lawrence's original three-track mastertapes, is superb. The cello, situated to the right of stage center and back a bit from stage front, is gorgeously rich and full in tone color; dynamics are exceptionally impressive...There is music for occasions, and there is music that creates a world to dwell in, rather than merely visit - Bach's Cello Suites are quintessentially the latter. This is a set that all music-loving audiophiles should own." - Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound, June/July 2005, Issue 154
"You don't have to know a Bourree from a crème brulee to be moved by this music. You can listen without the annotation and appreciate both Bach's emotional power and Starker's prowess. Or you can read along and understand the music's intellectual and structural underpinnings. This Mercury release from 1966 has long been treasured by music lovers and audiophiles for both the performances and the sound. Thanks to Speakers Corner, this beautifully produced, three-LP boxed set - mastered by Willem Makke at Universal's Berliner mastering facility in Hanover, Germany, from the original tapes - restores this historic set to the catalog. The updated annotation includes new notes by the 80-year-old Starker." - Michael Fremer, Stereophile, February 2005
Hi-Fi+ Record of the Year 2004
"Although Speakers Corner has already won a Product of the Year award for their Mercury Living Presence project, I felt, and after some persuading so did RG, that the release of Janos Starker's highly regarded set deserved its own recognition. Timed to honour Starker's eightieth birthday last year, this is an extremely special reissue...This is one of those records that seems to hold a magic mirror to sound - in this case the sound of a man playing a violoncello in space, in time, captured forever. This is a near physical manifestation of a performance out of thin air...I have always been a fan of the original records, but this is one of those rare instances, especially of such a highly regarded and sought after set, where the re-issue offers far greater pleasure and insight than the original release...Starker's technique, his touch, his grasp of instrument and line is simply as riveting and utterly convincing as one could ever hope to hear - and hear it you do...the icing on the cake is the memoir concerning Mercury and these particular recording sessions, written by Starker himself, exclusively for this release...Congratulations to Speakers Corner Records who have outdone themselves with this most valuable and masterfully produced set, a sentiment that seems to be becoming a habit." - Richard S. Foster, Hi-Fi+, Issue 36