Here is Bach‘s Sonata Nº 3 BWV 1016 for violin and harpsichord, with the violin part now transcribed for cello and transposed down by one fifth (into A major). This transposition makes the sonata easily playable on the cello firstly because it brings the music down into a comfortable register and secondly because the cello’s open strings coincide with those of the violin (see Transcribing Violin Music for the Cello).
The original key of this sonata is E major and this big transposition has required some revoicing of the accompaniment. Most notes of the accompaniment have been lowered by a fifth but many notes in both hands – especially the lowest bass notes – have been raised by a fourth to avoid the register being too low. The accompaniment parts are therefore offered in two versions: the “Literal Transcription” in which every note is simply lowered by a fifth, and then the “Adapted Performance Version” in which some of the lowest notes are raised an octave from the “Literal Version” (which means that instead of being transposed down a fifth they have been transposed up a fourth).
In the two faster movements (second and fourth) even certain sections of the “Performance Version” cello parts have been transposed up a fourth rather than down a fifth.
MOVEMENT I (ADAGIO)
This is a very slow-pulse music: the quarter-note speed is approximately 35 per minute, making each bar last about seven seconds. But this doesn’t mean that the notes don’t flow along very quickly at times. Of the total of 550 notes that there are in this movement, 376 of them are semidemiquavers (32nd notes with three beams) and 42 are hemisemidemiquavers (64th notes with four beams). If we do our maths we can see that these tiny little beasts represent therefore more than 75% of the notes, which is why the rhythmical reading (deciphering) of this movement requires definite mathematical ability (and probably some dark pencil markings on the beat subdivisions). We have tried to make their reading easier by subdividing the beams to coincide with the rhythmic subdivisions. But in order to make the reading greatly easier, and also to make the cello part less black (with the triple and quadruple beams), we present this movement here also in a version written out in double-time, in which every note is notated with double the rhythmic length of Bach’s original. This makes each bar an 8/4 bar, in the middle of which we have put a dotted barline. This procedure has also been used in several other slow movements of Bach’s unaccompanied violin and cello music (see Bach- Rhythmic Curiosities).
This is a song, an air, an aria, and what’s more a very dreamy meditative one. We need to play it with very long spacious lines. Breaths (time, rubato) have been incorporated into the audio accompaniment’s rests so that we never need to feel rushed, allowing us to take our time when leaving our long held notes. Rather than true silences, the rests in both the melody and the accompaniment are simply breaths.
No notes have been changed for the cello Performance Versions. This means that the only differences between the Literal Transcription and the Clean Performance Version are Bach’s bowing markings. In the Literal Transcription of the Piano Score every note of Bach’s original is simply transposed down a fifth. In the “Performance Version Piano Score” the pitch of some notes has been raised by a fourth rather than going down a fifth.
A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar, can be found here below. After clicking the start button we have seven seconds to sit down and get prepared with our cello! If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program.Audio Download
MOVEMENT II: (ALLEGRO)
In the “Performance Versions”, large sections of all the three voices (cello and both hands of the keyboard accompaniment) have been transposed up a fourth rather than down a fifth. In the case of the cello part, this has been done in in bars 26-34, 85-94 and 120-144 (end) . In the “Literal Transcriptions” however all notes have simply been transposed down by a fifth. We can, if we wish, play the “Literal Transcription” cello part with the “Adapted Performance Version” piano part.
MOVEMENT III: ADAGIO MA NON TANTO
This is Bach at his most cosmic. Rimsky Korsakov wrote a “Flight of the Bumblebee”, but this Adagio is a “Flight of an Angel”, and it takes us to heaven and beyond. If only it were easier to play! Finding the right fingerings and bowings is no easy task here. Bach’s bowings are definitely not phrasings: he usually slurs each triplet figure independently, but the actual melodic lines (phrases) are much much longer. Never was the idea “play it like you’d sing it in the shower” more appropriate, and we should probably try to play this as though we were a singer or a wind player using only one breath for each long soaring phrase. But singing it in the shower is much easier than playing it on the cello! This is why we offer two Edited Performance Versions. One is more “Romantic” with longer bows and fingerings that stay more on the same string (therefore using more shifting) while the other is more “Baroque”, using more of Bach’s bowings and using fingerings across the strings more than up and down the same string. Neither is entirely satisfactory ……
The original key of this movement is C# minor, the relative minor of E major (the principal key of this sonata), so the key of our transcription is F# minor (one fifth lower). Only one note has needed to be changed in the cello part compared to the violin original: a simple revoicing of the octave doublestop in bar 17.
Original-Key Cello Part
A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar, very mechanically with almost no dynamics or rubato (yet) can be found here below. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program:Audio Download
MOVEMENT IV: ALLEGRO
In the “Performance Versions”, large sections of both hands of the keyboard accompaniment have been transposed up a fourth rather than down a fifth. In the case of the cello part, this has been done only in bars 66-67 and 91-92. In the “Literal Transcriptions” however all notes have simply been transposed down by a fifth. We can, if we wish, play the “Literal Transcription” cello part with the “Adapted Performance Version” piano part.
A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar quite mechanically with no dynamics and only a bare minimum of rubato can be found here below. We have five seconds after pushing the play button before we need to play. A three note (quavers) introduction has been added so that we can know when to when to start. The speed is quarternote = 100. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program:Audio Download