JS Bach – Three or One
Transcriptions by Fred Thomas
Aisha Orazbayeva (violin), Lucy Railton (cello), Fred Thomas (piano)
ECM ECM 485 6141 56:27 mins
Fred Thomas’s previous Bach discs have embraced hybrid piano suites of his own devising and two of the solo cello suites performed on a four-string tenor banjo! This latest re-imagining burrows into the organ chorale preludes (especially those to be found in the Orgelbüchlein) as well as cantata movements. They’re mostly realised through the medium of the piano trio – albeit with self-effacing strings that match Thomas’s penchant for hushed purity. Indeed his own playing at times has something of the velvety fastidiousness of Víkingur Ólafsson.
The results can be mesmerising. The delicacy of ‘Ach bleib bei uns’ BWV 694 or the Sinfonia to Cantata 196 is disarming. And the aria from Cantata 105 utterly beguiles, its insistent, throbbing accompaniment supporting a sublimely translucent melodic line. Imaginative aural ambushes include ‘Ich ruf’ zu dir’, BWV 639, where the piano cleverly contrives the effect of an organ mutation stop, while the falling motif of ‘Durch Adams Fall’ colonises pizzicato cello. If, occasionally, the results are a little overwrought (‘Liebster Jesu wir sind hier’ BWV 633 is rather indulgently ponderous), Thomas has nonetheless consolidated his credentials as an illuminating if idiosyncratic Bachian.