Paganini: “Moto Perpetuo”: Transcribed for Cello

Here is a new transcription for cello of Paganini‘s “Moto Perpetuo”. Originally written for violin, this piece has previously been transcribed, edited and published for cello by at least two cellists: Julius Klengel (1859-1933) and Leonard Rose (1918-1984) and is not only a very enjoyable piece of music but also excellent study material, especially for our fast playing but also at any speed. As a thumbposition workout, this piece is infinitely more enjoyable and at least as useful as most of the Popper Studies. Several reasons motivated this new transcription:


Normally, for the adaptation of virtuoso violin pieces to the cello, we transpose them down, most often by a fifth, but Klengel’s and Rose’s editions both retain the original violin key. This places the piece much higher up the fingerboard – and consequently makes it much harder – for cellists than it is for violinists. The addition of this high-register difficulty to what is already a difficult, virtuoso piece, is difficult to justify. Therefore, apart from an original-key version, the piece is also offered here transposed down both a fourth (into G major) and a fifth (into F major) from the original violin version. Both of these transposed-down versions are much easier than any original-key version.

In the original high-key version, 60-65% of the 2100 notes are in thumbposition (depending on our fingerings and if we use the cellofun version or the original version). This makes it an excellent study for working on our thumbposition at any speed (it is much more exciting than Popper’s studies). In the lower-key version, the proportion of notes played in thumbposition descends to only 17%. However, in any key and register, this is a really fun piece to practice for developing our relaxed fast playing. For the ordinary cellist, the lower-key versions are definitely more suitable for playing as a concert piece but, surprisingly, the version transposed down a fourth into G major seems to work a lot better (it is considerably easier to finger) than the version transposed down a fifth into F major.


Many of the fingerings in both the Klengel and Rose editions seem to make the piece unnecessarily difficult, especially for small-handed cellists. The cellofun original-key edition very often uses different fingering suggestions to those offered in the Klengel and Rose editions, hopefully making the original-key version more easily playable. Very often, where Klengel and Rose run up and down the fingerboard, the cellofun fingerings stay in thumbposition and cross the strings. To easily compare the fingerings of the three different editions a “comparative score” is offered in which each edition is laid out parallel to the others, in score format. It is by doing this comparison that we realize just how many of Klengel’s (often quite bizarre) fingerings were retained by Rose for his edition. In fact, we can see clearly that Rose’s edition, rather than being a totally new arrangement/edition, is actually just a copy of Klengel’s, with the only difference being a few fingering modifications.

Fingering (and Note) Comparison Of Klengel, Rose, and Cellofun Editions


If we want to play the original-key version as a concert piece our task will be made easier if we simplify some of the most difficult bars. In the cellofun version, bars 100-111 have been simplified and bars 133-142 (at the end of the piece) have been transposed down an octave. This last octave transposition can be done in the cello version because we cellists have the lower, previously unused C string available, which violinists do not have.

The Klengel/Rose cello parts have the following note changes with respect to Paganini’s original violin version:

All of these note changes have been eliminated in the cellofun versions.

Rather than the Klengel/Rose edition, Paganini’s original violin score has been used as our original source from which the “Literal Transcriptions” are taken (in every key). In the cellofun lower (G major) version, none of Paganini’s original notes have been changed, apart of course from the transposition down by a fourth (plus an octave).


Trying to do a page-turn in this piece is impossible because, as its name suggests (Moto Perpetuo = Perpetual Motion), we never have a moment to catch our breath, let alone turn a page. This means that the four-page layout of other editions obliges us either to use two music stands or to memorise the entire piece. Using two music stands is a nuisance, and memorising this piece is much worse than a simple nuisance. Playing it from memory is very similar to climbing a vertical cliff with no ropes: one mistake and it’s all over, so the cellofun cello parts are laid out on only three pages in order to avoid both of these problems. This compression onto three pages makes the music somewhat compacted so be sure to print it on A4 (or larger) paper and to keep the original (very small) page margins, otherwise the printed notes will become even smaller.


Barlines normally help us to find structure in a piece of music but in this piece – as also occurs in a lot of music by Bach, Brahms and Verdi among others – the phrasing (rhythmic structure) of the melodic line often does not coincide with the regular succession of identical bar lengths with which it is notated. Often, the strongest beats of the melodic line coincide with the middle of the bars and this can be somewhat confusing. A good example of this occurs at the beginning of the piece (and then at each subsequent return of the main theme) where the cello’s entry feels like it should be at the beginning of the bar but actually coincides with the middle of the bar.

To avoid this potential complication, in the cellofun versions, the music is notated in such a way that the melodic phrasing coincides consistently with the barlines. This has required changing some of the bar lengths: the piano introduction is now a 2/4 bar with the cello melody starting on the first beat of the bar, and then there are the occasional 3/2 and 2/4 bars. Hopefully, this notation will help with our memorising of the piece, not only by making the melody’s rhythmic structure clearer but also by making the different main sections (blocks) more clearly differentiated.


The different sections of the piece have been indicated with waypoints (rehearsal letters) which are intended as a help for memorising. This is like giving ropes and anchors to mountain climbers. These secure points will stop them from falling all the way to the bottom in case of a foot slip and will stop us from having to return all the way to the beginning in case of a memory slip. Memorising each “block” and then putting them together is also a much more manageable task than trying to remember all of the 2249 notes in one uninterrupted sequence.

The piece can be divided into three very clearly delimited sections, which we have named A, B and C. The “A” section goes from the beginning to just after the repeat. The “B” section is the “development” section and the “C” section is the recapitulation (return of the main theme). Each of these three principal sections is also subdivided into four or five subsections, indicated as A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3 and C1, C2, C3 etc


It would appear that Paganini originally wrote the accompaniment for guitar and subsequently for orchestra but neither of these original sources seems to be publicly available. Rose’s edition uses Klengel’s piano accompaniment part with no modifications and, unfortunately, this accompaniment is, compared to other available violin editions (see, seriously elaborated and romanticised, with register changes, the addition of melodic/contrapuntal figures, and even some changes in the harmonies (bass line). In the cellofun editions, we have reverted to what seems to be Paganini’s more simple accompaniment style, which is the type of accompaniment with which most violinists play this piece. Almost all the accompaniment notes are now quarter-notes (instead of Klengel’s eighth notes) but this doesn’t mean that they are all to be played the same length: some are short while others are long, but these choices can be made (and varied) according to the criteria of the players.

For the G major version, the piano’s left hand has normally been transposed down a fourth whereas the right hand has been taken up by a fifth. This means that the cello often occupies the mid-range register between the two hands. The highest right-hand chords have often been revoiced to bring the top notes down an octave and the lowest bass notes in the left hand have often been transposed up an octave.

The page turns in the cellofun piano parts have, unlike in other editions, been placed at moments where the pianist has time to turn the page comfortably.


Because every edition/arrangement of this piece seems to have totally different dynamics, it was considered preferable to offer the cellofun editions with no dynamics at all.


Here are the links to the downloadable sheet music of the lower, G major cellofun transcription. Apart from the transposition down, no notes have been changed from Paganini’s original version :

  1.    G Major (down a 4th): EDITED VERSION
  2.     G Major (down a 4th): CLEAN VERSION
  3.     G Major: PIANO SCORE

Here below are two play-along audio accompaniments for this G major version. The first is at a slow, practice tempo (90 bpm) while the second is faster (115). Instead of Paganini’s two-beat introduction, there are now two bars of introduction. If you download it, many programs/apps can be used (Amazing Slowdowner, for example) to play it at different tempi:


And here are the links to the sheet music in the original key (one fourth higher):

  1.   Original Key: Cellofun Version: EDITED
  2.      Original Key: Cellofun Version: CLEAN
  3.      Original Key: Cellofun Version: PIANO SCORE
  4.       Original Key: Literal Transcription: EDITED
  5.      Original Key: Literal Transcription: CLEAN
  1. Original Key: Literal Transcription: PIANO SCORE

Here below are two play-along audio accompaniments for this original key version. The first is at a slow, practice tempo (90 bpm) while the second is faster (115). Instead of Paganini’s two-beat introduction, there are now two bars of introduction. If you download it, many programs/apps can be used (Amazing Slowdowner, for example) to play it at different tempi:


And here, as a curiosity, is a version transposed down a fifth into F major:

  1.   F Major (down a 5th): Clean Version