Schubert: “Auf dem Wasser zu Singen” D774: For Cello

Here is the sheet music for a cello transcription of Schubert‘s delightful song “Auf dem Wasser zu Singen” (“Singing On The Water”). It has been transposed down a semitone from Ab minor into G minor in order to allow us to use open strings and natural harmonics. Curiously, Schubert notated the entire song in Ab major, even though it spends most of its time in Ab minor or the relative major (Cb major). In fact, the song only reaches Ab major for a few bars at the end of each verse (in bars 29 and 55), arriving each time only with the last note of the voice (or cello). So, to avoid the frequent use of accidentals, we have notated the song here in the key of G minor as though Schubert had notated it in Ab minor. In the Performance Version we play the song twice, once in the tenor register and once in the soprano register one octave higher. We could also play it three times, finishing with the lower octave, perhaps in a whispered pp dynamic. This would correspond to the three verses in the original song. In the Easier Version, we simply stay in the same lower octave the whole time.

The piano accompaniment sounds exactly like a little bubbling stream, rushing and swirling along playfully but unceasingly. Schubert writes many hairpins in the accompaniment but we can make the effect of the swirling, eddying whirling water also with rubato. If we don’t do these slight accelerandos and ritardandos in the accompaniment then its continuous flow can sound more like a mechanical sprinkler than a bubbling stream. The melody is like a little bird: hovering, swooping and soaring joyfully above the water. We can choose between soaring and fluttering by our use (or not) of slurs. Our choices of bowings and articulations can be made with almost complete freedom because Schubert gives barely any indications: in his original score it would appear that each note is not even beamed to its neighbours let alone slurred, except for the melodic semiquavers which are beamed (and possibly slurred) in pairs (see the Literal Transcription).

  1. Edited Performance Version
  2.   Clean Performance Version
  3.   Easier Version  Literal Transcription
  4.   Piano Score

A play-along audio of the piano accompaniment can be found here below. This is computer-generated and not particularly good quality …… but hopefully better than nothing. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program: