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Classical inspirations: JS Bach and Helmut Lachenmann

Gabriella Swallow takes us through two composers, 200 years apart, who have inspired her development as a cellist.

7:30pm, Tuesday 28 July, online, via Zoom

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This event in the series ‘Ask an artist: what makes art work?’ focuses on music. Gabriella Swallow, one of the most versatile and exciting cellists of her generation, will introduce her twin inspirations: German composers - J.S. Bach (1685-1750) and Helmut Lachenmann (b.1935).

Gabriella says:

I am a professional cellist who has always been interested in the old and the new. The Bach cello suites have been the core of the solo cello repertoire since the 1900s, before then they had widely been thought to be intended as studies. The great Catalan cellist Pablo Casals discovered the Grutzmacher edition in a thrift shop in Barcelona in 1889 and began to study them and then later recorded them when he was 60 years old, in 1936.

A year before, in 1935, Helmut Lachenmann was born and started composing after singing in his local church. He composed his solo work for cello, ‘Pression’, in 1969-70.

I would like to explore how these two German composers. 200 years apart. tackled the same instrument. Both were experimental and in my opinion strove for the same kind of experience, but in completely different ways.

I will demonstrate some of the unique extended techniques used in Pression from working with Lachenmann on the piece when I performed it on his 70th birthday concert in Berlin.

No preparation is necessary, but if you have time, please do listen to:

Yo-Yo Ma - Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude

Helmut Lachenmann, Pression - Eric Maria Couturier - Ensemble intercontemporain

About the series
What are the artistic reference points for today’s artists? How do exemplary works of art from the past inform their creativity? In this new series of Arts & Society forums, we invite artists in a variety of spheres to select a work of art and explain how it has influenced them. How has their chosen piece prompted them to emulate its achievement?

Listen to the discussion


Gabriella Swallow is a prize-winning cellist who has performed internationally as a soloist and in ensembles. A graduate of the Royal College of Music, she has performed in a wide range of classical concerts, but also frequently crosses over into the fields of jazz and pop.  Read more about Gabriella here.

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