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In the first three suites, Pergamenschikow is at his most experimental, something that is especially highlighted in the C major's Sarabande section [listen -- CD1 track 16, 2:42-3:45], which is bursting with ornaments and inventive genius. The D minor prelude gives the virtuoso a chance to add a characteristic touch of Russian melancholy to Bach's work [listen -- CD1 track 7, 2:44-3:50], whereas the D major Gavotte -- by his own admission -- caused one reviewer to sit on his own before the CD player, listening and laughing out loud with delight at the playfulness and exceptional musicianship of the performer.

In his interpretation of the suites, Pergamenschikow believed that part of the cellist's job was to set out on a journey of discovery: what is this music about, really? It had to become a journey into the mind and creative spirit of the composer, and this particular cellist kept thinking, over and over again, about what this part or that in the score might be taken to mean. 'A lot of this is puzzling stuff and allows for varying interpretations. For example, is the BACH motif in the 22nd bar of the Courante from the fifth suite just a sequence of seconds that seems natural to us, or is it the composer marking the work with a hidden signature?' he asked. So, in listening to Pergamenschikow's Bach, we are listening to someone who not only tries to bring the innate beauty out of the music but also to get into the composer's mind.

The solo cello suites, unlike Bach's other works, exist as a transcript not in his own hand but in that of Anna Bach, his wife, written around 1720. This gives Pergamenschikow all the more justification for embarking on his voyage of musical discovery. 'There are numerous inconsistencies in the surviving cello suite manuscripts,' he writes, 'which contradicted the systematic order and its religious influences back then. One can only wonder if they are deliberate distinctions that should definitely be retained in their variety or whether they are just results of forgetfulness, inaccuracy and haste, also on the part of Anna Magdalena Bach, or Bach's students and copyists.'

Whether this carefully conceived approach works for you, rather than the more superficial approach of some other cellists, is a matter of personal preference. Not all of his listeners are as passionate about music as Pergamenschikow was, to whom music was his entire life and who spent his days thinking about music, writing about it, reading about it, teaching it, or playing it. He really goes in-depth, digging deep beneath the surface, an approach that he explains with his drive to get to the core of the work: 'We interpreters have to develop a meticulous, detective approach in order to reconstruct the originally intended, logical concept.'

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Copyright © 21 September 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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