Three or One (ECM)

“Three or One” is out now on ECM Records New Series.

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.



Fred Thomas – piano and transcriptions

Aisha Orazbayeva – violin

Lucy Railton – cello



“Mesmerizing…utterly beguiles…an illuminating if idiosyncratic Bachian” BBC Music Magazine

“Thomas’ ECM debut sees him elegantly arrange and reinvent a series of Bach sinfonias, vocal cantata and organ preludes” The Guardian

“Lyrical and haunting. It’s hard to know what Bach would have thought of it, but it does seem to reveal deep secrets in the music, and it is, well, very much like nothing anyone has heard before” All Music

 “Let this programme sink in over several hearings and the music will quietly insinuate itself into your next playlist” Gramophone

“One of the most transportive albums of the year” – Between Sound and Space

 “Fred Thomas is an astonishingly fine musician…highly effective, and deeply affecting” The Arts Desk

“Magnificent sonorities and meticulous transcriptions from Fred Thomas” – France Musique

Fred Thomas transfigures the master…interpreted with nuance and extreme sensitivity” FIP Radio

“The essence of Bach’s music is further magnified. A Bach record to be remembered” RTBF Belgium

“Immaculately conceived” – Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk

“Wonderfully musical, sensitively communicative” – Fono Forum

“Those led by their emotional response will be touched by Bach’s calm and grace. Church music becomes chamber music” – Stern

“Magnificently performed…Thomas manages to play Bach perfectly, or better still intimately…lively, current, eclectic, contemporary… A precious recording” Giornale della Musica

“Be prepared for something different from what you can possibly imagine” – Yellow Box

“This is a beautiful album that is flawless in its conception and execution and plunges the listener into Bach’s world with a fresh perspective and set of ears. Essential listening” – JazzViews

“Thomas has shown himself to be both fearless and deferential in his interpretations. He remains faithful to the source, radical in execution but beholden to the intention…an easy, joyful listen”  – Stereophile *****

“Intelligent and musical, sensitive and powerful…the pianist and magician Fred Thomas has created an opus that opens the ears; meditative and contemplative and at the same time expressly offering succour for our thoughts and feelings” – Neue Musik Zeitung









Recorded 2012/2018

University of Huddersfield,

courtesy of Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay

Engineers: Alex Bonney, Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay and Rob Sutherland (trios),

Elliott Parkin (solos)

Recording producer: Fred Thomas

Liner Photos: Phelan Burgoyne, Francis Fuego, Scarlett Casciello

Cover Photo: Manos Chatzikonstanzis 

Design: Sascha Kleis

Mastering: Christoph Stickel

Executive Producer: Manfred Eicher


An ECM Production

Transcriptions by Fred Thomas, published and available to buy from Edition Wilhelm Hansen or Music Sales