Cellist Marcus Stocker devoted his entire concert at the Phillips Collection yesterday to the music of Bach. It was a remarkable concert and a fitting tribute to James L. McLaughlin, the gallery's curator, who died only a week ago. McLaughlin's paintings surrounded the audience, replacing the familiar Rouault and Tack and infusing the salon with his memory. The glory of Bach's music sang of beauty's triumph over despair.
Stocker's cello has a large, imposing sound. His tempos are constant yet never rigid, his phrasing is always strong. From the Suite No. 2 in D Minor his approach was solemn and never less than convincing. He is not an elegant technician: His tone can be rough, his bow occasionally strays onto an unwelcome string, and his moaning and loud breathing take some getting used to. In the opening of the Suite No. 6 more subtle dynamic shadings would have been welcome. How, then, does he succeed so well with this difficult music?
He makes his cello sing. There is such intensity in the voice that it is impossible not to listen. His delicate trills surprised amid the powerful textures, and his long lines soared. Even the bright dance movements were never rustic or just jolly, and the smiles of Bach's music resounded with profound strength.