FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

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

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”.

Duo for Cello and Violin (or Treble-clef Instrument): Clean Version       Edited Version

Duo for Two Cellos: Clean Version        Edited Version

The cello/viola duo version with viola has been transposed into C major in order for the viola to be able to use its lower register instead of playing the same notes as the violin (and original keyboard) version. While the cello part has been transposed up a fourth, the top voice (viola) has been transposed down a fifth.

Duo for Cello and Viola: Clean Version      Edited Version