The original source for these transcriptions is Bach’s autograph manuscript. In the “Literal Transcription” this manuscript has simply been copied and transposed down a fifth (plus an octave). All the bowings in the “Literal Transcriptions” are Bach’s. In the “Edited Performance Versions” however, Bach’s bowings have very often been changed.
ALLEMANDE and COURANTE
No notes have needed to be changed for these adaptations to the cello. This is very monophonic music: there are only a total of seven doublestops/chords in the entire two movements. The Allemande and Courante are published together for layout reasons.
In the “Performance Versions” of this beautiful Sarabande some chords have been revoiced in order to avoid strained hand postures and their associated intonation and sound-quality problems. With these minor changes, it can be played very comfortably on the cello.
No notes have been changed in the adaptation for cello of this Gigue but many bowings have been changed. In Bach’s original version there are many more passages played with separate bows, and when he does propose slurs, those that he suggests are often not suitable for the cello. In the Edited Performance Version we have preferred to modify those original bowings that create exceptional difficulties, choosing instead simpler ones that make this challenging music as natural and easy as possible to play. The Literal Version is there for anyone who wants to try Bach’s original bowings!
It is hard to find words to describe this monumental piece. Is it possible to do more, to be more inventive, with four strings, 15 minutes, a bow and a repeating eight-bar harmonic motif ? This is definitely a piece to take along when you are next shipwrecked on a desert island.
Playing the Chaconne is not only a profound spiritual journey: as a study in chords, double-stops and polyphonic playing it is also unbeatable. Apart from the frequent revoicing of chords, no notes have been changed for this transcription. It is surprisingly playable/successful on the cello, especially when we use some upside-down fingerings (with higher notes on lower strings) in chords to enable the use of the open strings and the consequent resonance that this produces.
Many violinists play the opening theme in a legato, sostenuto style, like an organ, but in the Performance Versions offered here we have even gone so far as to notate it with rests, to allow the chords to resonate with their natural resonance rather than “squeezing them to death” with an unstylish romantic legato. This, of course, is an interpretative choice (see Baroque Style and Interpretation).
Duo Version High Duo Version (original key)