FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Bach: Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord Nº 1 BWV 1014

Here is the first of Bach‘s six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, transcribed for cello and harpsichord and transposed down a fifth into E minor in order to make the cello part comfortable. The transposition of a fifth is chosen because this allows us to keep the same use of open strings as for the violin, which is especially advantageous for the frequent double-stops of the first movement. This big transposition has required considerable revoicing of the accompaniment. While some notes have been taken down a fifth, many others have been transposed up a fourth to avoid the register of the sonata sounding always too low. In a few passages, the cello part has also been transposed up a fourth rather than down a fifth to get it out of the elephant (“grunting”) register.

For the brave and/or curious cellist, the original-key cello parts (one fifth higher than the version found below) are also offered.

Cellofun.eu video recordings of each movement can be viewed on the “cellofunEU” Youtube channel

MOVEMENT I: ADAGIO

With this movement as our first introduction, it would be easy to feel discouraged about the appropriateness of a cello adaptation of Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Cembalo. This is not at all a good sales pitch (visiting card) for these sonatas because it is probably the most difficult movement of all the twenty-five that make up this collection. This is mostly due to the many shifting doublestopped passages, which are considerably easier on the violin because on the violin they require both less shifting and fewer stretches. In the “Easier” Version, the lower notes of the most difficult double-stops have been removed. But we can also remove the lower notes from all the remaining (but somewhat easier) double-stops to make it even more “cello-friendly) if we wish.

In bars 21, 26 and 29 some of the strange dissonances found in Bach‘s original manuscript have been “corrected”. It is unlikely that these harsh dissonances were “mistakes” by Bach but to make the music more palatable we have preferred to modify them, adapting them to a more simple harmonic ear. Most notably, in bar 21, the lower note of the cello’s initial doublestop (Bach’s original F) is the flattened 9th of the chord, and clashes very strongly with the E in the bass line of the accompaniment. To avoid this grating dissonance we have lowered the lower note of the cello’s doublestop by a semitone, making it now the bass note of a dominant 7th chord. Other curious contrapuntal dissonances remain however.

In bars 26-33 the cello part has been raised a fourth rather than lowered a fifth.

   Edited Performance Version    Clean Performance Version   Easier Version    Literal Transcription

         Piano Score: Adapted to New Key     Piano Score: Literal Transcription

Original-Key Cello Part

A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar, can be found here below. Many breaths and rubatos are incorporated into this accompaniment. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program:

Audio Download

 

A video performance of this movement, played with the play-along accompaniment, can be viewed here.

MOVEMENT II: ALLEGRO

No notes have been changed for the cello transcription of this movement, however in the Performance Versions, bars 41-51 of the cello part have been transposed up a fourth rather than down a fifth. In bars 54 and 61 of the Henle Urtext edition, the string-instrument notes do not coincide with most previous editions. We have chosen to use the notes found in the other editions because their melodic line is more interesting.

The Henle Urtext edition (which is the original source for all of these transcriptions) differs also from most other editions in that it has almost no slurs in this movement. This is because it is based on the Altnikol copy whereas most other editions are based on the Schwanberger copy (which has many more slurs). As with the notes in bars 54 and 61, the articulations (slurs) of this alternative edition may seem more interesting and attractive than the Altnikol source. Because of the many and enormous differences between the two copies, both are offered here (“Literal” Versions) and in our “Performance” Version we have simply created our own slurs.

  Edited Performance Version    Clean Performance Version

            Literal Transcription Altnikol   Literal Transcription Schwanberger

                 Piano Score Adapted to New Key     Piano Score Literal Transcription

Original-Key Cello Part

A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar, can be found here below. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi. A one-bar introduction has been added to the beginning to allow us to know when to start. Several breaths between phrases and also rubatos have been added to break up the sewing-machine monotony of the accompaniment,

Audio Download

 

A video performance of this movement, played with the play-along accompaniment, can be viewed here.

MOVEMENT III: ANDANTE

The original key of this movement is D major, the relative major of B minor. Our transposition down a fifth takes us therefore into the key of G major.

Edited Performance Version    Clean Performance Version   Literal Transcription

              Piano Score Adapted to New Key      Piano Score Literal Transcription

 Original-Key Cello Part

A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar, can be found here below. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi.  A half-bar introduction has been added to the beginning to allow us to know when to start. In this recording there are quite a few small rits and breaths between the phrases

Audio Download

 

A video performance of this movement, played with the play-along accompaniment, can be viewed here.

MOVEMENT IV: ALLEGRO

From halfway through bar 43 until bar 50 the cello part has been taken up a fourth rather than lowered a fifth. In the Performance Versions the rhythm of bars 4 and 36 (and the equivalent passages in the accompaniment) have been changed to triplets.

Edited Performance Version   Clean Performance Version   Literal Transcription

           Piano Score Adapted to New Key     Piano Score Literal Transcription

 Original-Key Cello Part

A computer-generated play-along audio of the accompaniment, “played” on the guitar, can be found here below. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi.  A one-bar introduction has been added to the beginning to allow us to know when to start.

Audio Download

 

A video performance of this movement, played with the play-along accompaniment, can be viewed here.