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Here is Johann Sebastian Bach in transfigured light: with organ chorale preludes, vocal cantata movements and orchestral sinfonias – 24 pieces in all – transcribed for trio and solo piano by Fred Thomas, and threaded into a compelling new sequence by Manfred Eicher. On Three Or One, Bach’s idiom is respectfully explored by three innovative players, a process Thomas describes as “quietly joyful,” and the trio pieces, primarily drawn from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein, acquire a fresh character in the hands of Kazakh violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and British cellist Lucy Railton, musicians more often associated with contemporary composition’s cutting edge. Fred Thomas, who makes his ECM New Series debut here, has always worked across contexts and genres, and considers the trio’s wide-ranging experience “an incitement to creativity. Bach often re-used his own material and it is no surprise it came out differently each time. With his imaginative, technical and improvisatory powers, do we really believe that Bach would play the same thing the same way twice?” It’s a good question, and the key to the approach taken on Three Or One.

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