Peter Gregson – Bach Cello Suite No.1 in G Major

8th December 2023 · 2010s, 2018, Music

Five or six years ago I spent a few magical days at Air Studios witnessing Peter Gregson’s recording of Bach’s canonical Cello Suites for Deutsche Grammophon.

My small role was writing the CD booklet and interviewing the (re)composer, Peter Gregson, about the huge challenge of “recomposing” these 300-year-old works for the 21st century.

He did it by having them played by an ensemble of five cellists – plus himself as a sixth – and (further infuriating stodgy classical purists) adding subtle textures with the use of analogue synths.

Like Max Richter, who recorded the first in DG’s “Recomposed” series when he took on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Gregson is equally at home with electronica as with the classical repertoire.

If all that makes it sounds as if he was messing with perfection, well the result is anything but that. He remains true to the original manuscripts while introducing new background elements – specifically bass – to create richer, more vibrant textures.

As Gregson puts it: “Although the object is the same, if you turn around and see [Bach’s composition] from a different angle – shine the light on it in a different way – you get different textures; new shadows, new shapes appear; new pathways through the melodies and harmonies.

“The result is more like a suite of fantasias on a theme (of the original compositions), but still recognisably the same material.”

Here’s the first of the suites – No.1 in G Major, BMV 1007:1 Prelude – a sweet two-minute amuse bouche for my December playlist.