Telemann Viola Concerto (for cello)

The process of transcription for cello of this most wonderful Viola Concerto by Telemann is explained here below:


The highest note in the original viola part is G, almost 2 octaves above the cello’s open A string. This note is used often, and in extended melodic passages, in three of the concerto’s four movements. The lowest note in the viola version is C, a fourth above the cello’s open G string. This register seems unnecessarily – and uncomfortably – high. So, we definitely need to transpose the piece down into a more comfortable register.

If we were to take the piece down simply an octave then our highest note would be G (4th position on the A string,) and our lowest note would be the open C string. This keeps the cellist permanently in the Neck region (the most comfortable register for cellists to play in), and will therefore be our “Easier Version” of the concerto, but is probably a little too low for a “real”, effective, concert-performance version.

For an effective soloistic transposition we need to find a compromise between these two registers. In order to be able to use the most open strings as possible – and in the same places as the viola – we have decided to transpose the piece down a fourth from G major into D major. This means that our highest note will be a D (a fourth above the octave harmonic on the A string), our lowest note will be an open G string (which means of course that we will never need the C string). This is a reasonable soloistic, concerto range (register) but it does mean that we will need to use the Intermediate Region and Thumb Position quite often because playing it in this key is the equivalent to violists playing it one 5th higher than they do. Some passages become really quite quite difficult in this new key.

Another problem with this transposition is that we now also need to transpose the accompaniment, and because it is such a large transposition we need to choose which passages in the accompaniment need to go down a fourth and which ones need to go up a fifth. In fact no transposition is larger or more difficult than that of a 4th/5th: if we were to transpose the solo part by by a larger interval – lets say a 6th – then the accompaniment would only need to move by a third (in the opposite direction). The transposition of the solo part by a 7th interval would require only a tone (or semitone) transposition of the accompaniment, and an octave transposition of the solo part obviously requires no accompaniment transposition.


Telemann uses few slurs in his original manuscript. In the edited versions here of this piece, quite a few extra slurs have been added in the fast movements in order to give more variety to the somewhat monotonous “sewing machine effect” of repeated semiquavers (16th notes) that was often the articulation custom at the time. There are many different possibilities for “improving!?” these articulations – the slurs indicated here are by no means either necessary or definitive – just vague suggestions.


The “Easier Version” is simply one fifth lower than the “Concert Version”. This is the original key and is in every way completely unchanged from Telemann’s viola version apart from the transposition down an octave. No notes have been changed in either version apart from the transpositions (and a minor correction to bar 218).

So here then are the downloadable solo parts, for cello soloist (instead of viola):

Soloistic Register Version: Clean            Soloistic Register Version: Edited

Easier Version (lower register, original key): Clean              Easier Version (lower register, original key): Edited