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Recording supervisor and studio owner Teije van Geest still remembers the making of this CD in his studios. 'When he came to us, Pergamenschikow was one of the most celebrated cellists of our time, but what struck me when we worked together for the recording of this CD was how wonderful he was to deal with, on a human level as well as on a musical one. He was a modest man who didn't want to cause any fuss, and he didn't want special treatment. He was an exceptional musician, of course, and what was very nice is that, when we discussed the sound of this piece or that, he did not try to push his weight around with me. He listened to what I had to say, and then adjusted his play if need be, recognizing that the cellist hears himself differently to what it eventually sounds like on the recording. He recorded two suites at a time, over the months of April, May and June 1998. Of course, he had a highly individual approach to Bach and this was another special treat for me in the making of this CD, to be introduced to a master cellist's view of these works.'
In fact, Pergamenschikow allowed himself some artistic privilege, for instance by playing notes at times that Bach didn't write but that are in the spirit of baroque while providing a distinct contemporary touch. At other times, such as the second D major Gavotte
[listen -- CD2 track 17, 1:43-3:02],
he replaces the odd note with one that he thinks is more fitting, in this case playing a G instead of the asked-for A flat.
'Even if Bach was an authoritarian composer and mostly defined his works down to the smallest detail, he did take it for granted that the musicians would make their own contributions', Pergamenschikow wrote of the cello suites and then went on to say: 'I felt the challenge to reflect on whether it would help me find the truth if I more or less out-stepped the bounds of the instrument and the acquired dogma of "play what the notes say". We cellists have always been so impressed by the unique position of the six Bach suites that many of us took a kind of "cello centric" focus on these suites without seeing them in connection with the other works and as part of Bach's complete oeuvre.'
In his approach to Bach, Pergamenschikow strives to connect the cello suites with the total complexity of the composer's overall oeuvre rather than seeing them as an isolated part, sticking to the traditional composition while putting a twentieth century viewpoint on it. So when the score calls for a trill, for instance, he goes beyond what is written and, uncharacteristically for him who was known to never say a bad word about anyone, side-sweeps at those musicians who stick to the written score: 'In those days,' he writes of the baroque period, 'musicians had to use all known forms of ornaments when they hit on the tr symbol, while musicians trained to be strictly faithful to the text invariably played trills on those cases. Of course, some narrow-minded performers, who existed even back then, would diminish the impact of this magnificent music to suit their own tastes.'
Copyright © 21 September 2004
Tess Crebbin, Germany