The accompaniments to Bach’s “Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continuo” are notated by Bach simply as a figured bass line (bass notes + chord “code numbers”). The complexity of copying out the figured bass numbers means that the Basso Continuo parts of these sonatas are presented in the “cellofun editions” simply as unfigured bass lines, to be played by a second cello (or any other bass instrument). We don’t need a harpsichord to accompany these sonatas with baso continuo.
This Sonata is presented here transposed down a fifth, mainly because the first movement would be extremely difficult if not impossible in the original key. The transposition down a fifth of the basso continuo line often takes us below the cello’s lower limit of pitch, therefore some notes have needed to be transposed up a fourth. The choice of which notes go up and which go down is determined by the (lower) limit of the cello’s range, by the need to preserve the musical line (melodic direction of the bass line) and by the general tessitura level. When both the solo and accompaniment voices are in a very low tessitura, we sometimes transpose the entire lower voice up a fourth (rather than down a fifth) to avoid sounding like an aria for two elephants.
The first and second movements are played “attaca” (with no break between them) and are therefore presented together. The “first” cellist must make the page turn between the first and second movements.
FIRST MOVEMENT AS A STAND-ALONE UNACCOMPANIED CELLO PIECE
This extraordinary movement can be played unaccompanied, as its Basso Continuo accompaniment consists of a simple sustained pedal “A” throughout its entire duration. It makes a very fine stand-alone concert piece (especially as an encore) – exciting, fast, and full of imagination with an abundance of special upside-down bariolage (string crossing) effects.