Bach: Duetto Nº 3 BWV 804 from Clavierübung Vol III: String Duo With Cello

Many of the pieces available on this website are masterpieces (albeit often miniatures) or curiosities. But this little two-part contrapuntal piece by Bach, originally written for organ, is neither. It is, rather, an exercise, both for Bach (hence its title as “Übung” which means “Exercise”) and also for us, for whom it is an exercise in transcribing Bach’s contrapuntal keyboard music for different instrumental combinations involving the cello.

What was originally a keyboard composition with two very clearly defined contrapuntal voices (hence its title “Duetto”) is here presented in several different duo versions for cello plus another instrument (including another cello). Although these duos are conceived for string instruments (cello, violin and viola) any other treble-clef or bass-clef instruments can be used as long as they have the same pitch range.

In Bach’s original keyboard (organ) version there are absolutely no slurs or dynamics. If we don’t want the piece to sound like a sewing machine, this lack of articulation variety obliges us to use our imagination and create our own. A few (incomplete and unsatisfactory) suggestions for these can be found in the “Edited Versions”.

  1.    For Cello And Violin
  2.    For Two Cellos
  3.    For Cello And Viola