“Easier” Versions: Explanation
For most of the pieces in the cellofun Repertoire Library, a simplified version is also offered, in which the most difficult passages are made easier. This process of simplification however, is not always as straightforward as it might seem, because it is often not easy to decide what to change, what to leave and how to make the changes. We don’t want to “massacre” the music (rewrite it, change notes) in order to make it easier, nor is it always clear just what is “difficult” and what is “easier”. Let’s look in more detail at some of these questions:
Cellists – and string players in general – usually spend a long time learning the lower regions of the fingerboard before venturing up higher. Whether or not this is a good idea is not at all certain, but this is the reality for most younger and amateur cellists. So, very often we have presented an “Easier Version” that is “easier” mainly in the sense that it stays always in the Neck Region. This usually involves simply transposing down an octave those passages that go into the Intermediate and Thumb Regions. This octave transposition is less violent musically than the idea of changing notes, because changing notes seriously alters the music, whereas octave transpositions simply change the register.
However, just because a piece stays in the Neck Region does not mean that it is necessarily “easy” – the first five Bach Suites are a good example of this. If we are used to playing in the higher fingerboard regions, many passages may actually lie more comfortably for the hand in the higher octave than in the lower one. For all these reasons, we should probably consider these arrangements as “Lower Versions” rather than “Easier Versions”.
Apart from this lowering of the higher passages, the main other changes are made for the “Easier Versions” are:
USE OF THE THUMB
Unfortunately, learning to use our thumb is often quite traumatic for cellists, probably because we usually wait so long before starting to use it. This is a shame because the thumb can really make life so much easier for our left hand, especially (but not exclusively) in the higher registers. To fit in with this conventional reality, the use of the thumb has been (reluctantly) avoided in the “Easier Versions”.
DOUBLESTOPS AND “DUO VERSIONS”
Doublestops tend to make one good cellist sound like two bad ones. Therefore, they are often removed in the cello “Performance Version” of many violin pieces, and this is especially the case for the “Easier Versions”. An alternative way to make an “Easier Version” from a piece with many chords and doublestops is simply to give all those notes to a second cellist, thus making a “Duo Version” from what was originally a “Solo Version”. We use this method almost exclusively in unaccompanied music, especially music written originally for solo violin, because it is in this music that chords and doublestops are used the most. Most of the highly polyphonic movements of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin are thus also offered in these “Duo Versions”, which are at the same time the “Easier Versions”.
Where ornaments involve a significant increase in difficulty, they have often been removed.
Changing the pitch of notes is a fairly radical editing choice, often equivalent to actually rewriting the music. Some notes are more important than others however, and sometimes there are notes that can be changed without massacring the music, for the purpose of making an “Easier Version”. But when this is not the case, then the decision has sometimes been taken to not make an easier version, simply because the changes that we would need to make would change the music too much. This occurs for example with a lot of the monophonic movements in the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (for the polyphonic movements we can make a “Duo Version” for our “Easier Version”).