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  • Writer's pictureErnst Simon Glaser

Conversations with J.S. Bach

I have made a few recordings during my career that I am really thankful for having had the opportunity to make. If someone had asked my 20 year old self whether I would have recorded 4 solo recordings, and be a principal cellist in my 4th orchestra before the age of 50 I would definitely not have believed them!

All of the recordings I have made have in some way been a marker for that particular time. However no other recording has meant so much to me as this newest recording coming out on the 15th of November. Let's go back in time a little...

In 2004 I released my debut album of the complete chamber music repertoire for cello and piano by Schumann and Schubert with historical pianos. It was something I was offered in connection with winning the “Young solist of the year” award. Schubert and Schumann were my passions of the time from student days and the historical pianos were my own personal angle at doing something different. It also made it more meaningful for my half-sister Liv Glaser.

In 2012 I released my cello concerto with winds album. At this time I had played with the wind sections of orchestras and the professional wind bands of Norway a surprising amount of times. It felt as though I had stumbled across a niche of my own which I had just started to think about. This was around the end of my time in the Norwegian Opera Orchestra and start of my time in the Gothenburg Symphony, a time when I felt that things were really going well career-wise.

I was asked by the Gothenburg Symphony if I wanted to perform and record a cello concerto written by a Swedish composer with the orchestra in 2014. This was a natural result of working where I was at that time. This was recorded early in 2015 but not released until 2017. At this point I was starting to feel that commuting between Oslo and Gothenburg was taking its toll and I was looking for opportunities to work in Oslo again.

What is interesting about the newest recording is that its development has been present throughout this period. The first piece on this recording, written by Eivind Buene, was composed in 2002 and first performed in 2003. This piece was the catalyst for the whole project. In 2004, shortly after the first CD release, I remember being on the phone to multiple composers about this project.

I thought initially that this project would only take a year or so. However life caught up with me. After having had a year off from the opera, I was back again in the autumn of 2005, now a father, and it turned out that getting funding for such a large project with many new works (especially as a relatively young newcomer) wasn’t that easy. I did manage to get 2 pieces commissioned in 2007 and 2008 and performed by 2011 but it was very hard to focus on the completion of the project with everything else going on. Finally I managed to get the funding for the final 3 pieces which were written in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The recording took place in June 2021 after having started in my new role as principal cellist of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

So it is a project that has been a part of my life for a long time but also has important meaning to me beyond that. I think it is very important for musicians to seek a contemporary music and expression. Something that belongs to the present moment. I think it is vital for the continuation  of our particular type of entertainment that we also connect with the future creators of our music, but at the same time I do not feel the need to be a specialist in any field, at least not in a vacuum and not for myself. We are all a result of our DNA and our lives from a starting point up until the present day. Likewise, our playing and the history of our classical music craft is the result of its own DNA and the history of its development through time. Music isn’t itself alive until it is performed. It is something that exists at the time of the performance, and is the expression of ideas and feelings within the space of time through sound and movement. The times that we live in do not change that part of the equation. The times we live in do change the way in which we experience music (especially in relation to other music of our time) and what a composer may wish to express but a composer is a part of evolution and is subject to the same reality that a composer like Bach has been rendered to: That their music is not alive, and does not exist until it is performed.

This is the heart of my project and has always been at the very centre of my being. I love Bach, and it is what it is because of the person writing it, and the times in which it was written, and that is channeled through my life as a musician. In exactly the same way, I love all of the composers on this recording! Their music is what it is because of whom they are and the times in which they are writing it, channeled through me. The extra little twist that adds a layer of depth to me however is the added nod of respect and communication with Bach, to create an expression of something that exists within the context of a broad concept of time.

If you would like to listen to the single or listen to any of my recordings please check out my recordings on Spotify:

If you would like to come to the release concert here is where you can get tickets:

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