FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

The Editing Process

Bowings – but more especially fingerings – are very personal, very subjective. But the criteria for determining what are “good” or “bad” choices are not only influenced by our own unique individual characteristics (hand size, temperament, mood etc) but also will vary according to the acoustic, the characteristics of our instrument and bow, what the other musicians are doing, the musical context, stylistic and interpretative factors etc. Therefore, any one musical passage can easily have many different possible “best” fingerings and bowings, according to the unique configuration of these personal and external variables. This makes editing a part (putting in fingerings and bowings) a very delicate and controversial task.

Some editorial choices regarding bowings, fingerings and articulations are absolutely certain …. but most are not. This is why, with respect to the “Edited Versions” published on this website:

  • along with the “Edited” version, there is always a “Clean” edition of every piece, with no bowings or fingering suggestions. It is this version that should be our ultimate performance part, into which we write in our own bowings, fingerings etc in the same way that the Edited Versions are my own personal performance parts
  • when in serious doubt about the “ideal” bowings or fingerings, I have tried (often unsuccessfully) to make no suggestion
  • this exercise in self-restraint is however very difficult, so a lot of the Edited Versions are seriously overedited. For an accomplished cellist, this can be very irritating, however for an aspiring cellist the “painting-by-numbers” method can be a useful way to start
  • please be aware that when I, the editor of these scores, come back to almost any of the Edited Versions, I almost always find improvements to my previous bowing and fingering choices. So feel free to continue this process!

BOWINGS

Where possible, the composer’s original slurs are left in the “Edited Version” and, when we break a slur into different bows, the bowing signs are simply written above or below the original slur marks. This can be a little confusing, but is hopefully worth it because it keeps (shows) the composers’ original intention. If we don’t know that the composer originally wrote four notes slurred, we could be tempted to play the two-notes-slurred version of the following example with a separation and/or diminuendo between the two bows, especially if we are playing music from the Classical Period. Therefore the third notation method is preferred.

editing broken slurs 1

When the composer’s bowings are changed for the cellofun Edited Versions, the criteria used are almost always focused on pleasing both players and listeners, rather than pleasing musicologists or scholarly critics. Some composers’ bowings and/or articulations are difficult, if not impossible, to play on the cello, especially when our piece is transcribed from another instrument. The cello needs more bow than the violin, and piano articulations also very often inappropriate for the cello. If there is a choice, it is always preferable, for me, that a piece sounds “good” with non-Urtext bowings/articulations rather than being true to the original indications at the price of having it sound “bad” (difficult).

See the page Choosing Bowings for an extensive discussion about the fascinating subject of bowings.

FINGERINGS

The fingerings suggested in the Edited Versions of the music offered on this website are always conceived for small-handed cellists (see Hand Size). This is because finding “good” fingerings for a small hand is incomparably more difficult than for a large hand. Whereas large-handed cellists will find the “small-hand fingerings” annoying and unnecessary, at least they will be able to comfortably do them. The reverse is not true for small-handed cellists trying to play “large-hand fingerings”.