Best edition of Bach violin sonata/partitas

June 20, 2013 at 04:02 PM · I would like to know what the knowledgeable folks on this forum think about the various editions of the Bach solo violin sonatas and partitas that are available. I'm a beginning to intermediate violin student (OK, mostly beginning, but I have played cello for many years and have a degree in music, so I can make halfway decent sounds on the violin and have good intonation after only three months of lessons). Anyway, there are so many different editions, with prices ranging from USD 9.00 to 40.00, and I don't know what would be best for me at this stage. Obviously, much of this material is completely beyond me at this point, such as the Chaconne and the C major Fuga. But there are other movements, or at least parts of movements, that I think I can manage. I like the idea of an Urtext edition, like Henle or Bärenreiter, but I think perhaps a fingered edition might serve me better. In any case, I'd be very interested to hear what others feel about the various editions of BWV 1001-1006.

Replies (18)

June 20, 2013 at 04:20 PM · I personally own a Barenreiter and a Universal edition edited by Galamian. I got the Barenreiter first on the advice of my old teacher in 2007 and as you say it has no fingerings in it. When I switched teacher, I was advised to purchase the Galamian edition. What's great about the Galamian is the fact that a facsimile of the original manuscript is included at the back so you can compare directly to what Bach wrote in case of any bowing discrepancies, phrasing etc. The fingerings in this edition are also great - I don't agree with all of them but for somebody approaching the more straightforward movements I can't see where you could go wrong.

June 20, 2013 at 05:08 PM · I have three editions. I find the Galamian invaluable because of the manuscript in the back. But also, I really, really like my Schott edition, edited by Szeryng: Here is a link

June 20, 2013 at 05:21 PM · I, too, have had and still have multiple editions. The ones I use now are the Galamian edition (with the facsimile) and the Szeryng (that really makes three points of reference).

June 20, 2013 at 05:30 PM · If you want one of the best it is free at imslp. It is by Werner Icking and is the only edition that has the various stems of notes exactly as Bach did them. This is very helpful in figuring out voicing.

June 20, 2013 at 05:46 PM · I like bärenreiter, but in some places its different than the handwritten original from bach, wich is somehow annoying, because its called urtext...

June 20, 2013 at 08:18 PM · I vote with Laurie on the Schott edition done by Szeryng. Szeryng was one of the outstanding exponents of these pieces. His edition is an urtext in that he shows both the original bowings and his edits. His fingerings are very useful. He also has some information on the pieces and on baroque performance. That said, you should also acquire a facsimile of the manuscript, which I believe is available for free on the internet, probably at

Simon - I think the notion of urtext in this context is a bit overdone. I have some trouble telling where Bach's slurs begin and end in the ms. He is not always consistent when you can tell, so you cannot necessarily use what is clear to determine what he wanted with the ambiguous bowings.

June 20, 2013 at 09:07 PM · Yes, bowings are ok anyways. Just accidentals differ in some places, wich is something I wouldn't expect from urtext...

I only use the Bärenreiter, because its clean. I make my own fingerings and bowings anyways.

From listening to old recordings I learned to know the weaknesses of the Bärenreiter Urtext. I heard harmonies wich I didn't expect and checked the manuscript and wondered, why Bärenreiter is different. Of course its just a few places, but still it makes a big difference for the music.

June 23, 2013 at 02:16 PM · Thank you, everyone, for your insightful comments. At this point, I have decided to go with the Szeryng edition, but I just know that I will "collect" others as well. I have three (only three??) editions of the cello suites, and find certain aspects of all of them valuable; no doubt, it will be the same with the violin sonatas and partitas.

June 23, 2013 at 04:00 PM · The accidentals differ because they have elected to use modern convention (no repeats of same pitch accidentals in the key signature, accidentals hold through to the end of the measure).

It's explained very clearly in the notes that accompany the Barenreiter and others.

June 23, 2013 at 06:49 PM · There are in fact two Icking editions. One exactly reproduces the manuscript, which is highly recommended, like Bruce said.

The other one adds fingerings etc.

June 23, 2013 at 07:39 PM · I think there are still places in the Bärenreiter Edition wich are critical and just missreading the Manuscript. In bar 6 of the siciliana for example the 6th 32th note is in the manuscript clearly a e flat and not an E with an natural sign.

Its really little stuff, but its not the only place where its not just related to the notation. I think bach was quite clear in his manuscript. People make faults. I would always check the manuscript. Also because its beautiful!

July 1, 2013 at 06:35 PM · I went to and downloaded the facsimile of the manuscript. If you do that, you can either play directly from a printout of that, type it into a notation programme like Finale to make your own urtext edition, or just use it to cross-reference or annotate whatever edition you use. Bach's musical handwriting is pretty clear, so that makes things a lot easier.

Doing this is also an amazing eye-opener to the liberties that so many editors take.

July 1, 2013 at 08:12 PM · The Icking edition reproduces exactly the manuscript and is way better to read or printout.

July 2, 2013 at 05:59 AM · I cut the spine on my International edition and had the manuscript spiral bound (so that it lays flat). I have the other half spiral bound's still worth it to see the creative and efficient fingerings in the Galamian version.

For students who haven't purchased it yet, I have them print and spiral bound the manuscript from IMSLP, then pair it with a clean version like Barenreiter or Icking.

July 2, 2013 at 06:32 AM ·

November 20, 2013 at 02:33 PM · Hi!

I think for every player the handwritten Manuscript is indispensable.

A nice one for example is the one you can purchase at

This is the link to the Bach Manuscript


November 20, 2013 at 05:14 PM · There are many printing services available online which can print and bind at very low cost...I use the spiral bound version from, total cost is usually under $5-6.

November 20, 2013 at 08:04 PM · the scan of the handwritten manuscript was made available by the Bach Digital Archive for free at IMSLP

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