Publishers of Bach Cello Suites for viola

February 10, 2005 at 08:01 PM · I wonder if I may post a viola question (but I am a violinist). I want to play the Bach cello suites transcribed for viola. I would like to have your opinions as to which editions are best? I am looking for one that has little to no editing (unfortunately no Barenreiter for viola).

Replies (13)

February 10, 2005 at 08:18 PM · Peters Edition is quite good.

February 10, 2005 at 08:29 PM · I'm not sure about scholarly editions, but the Watson Forbes addition is good. Are you planning to play these on the violin?

February 10, 2005 at 10:09 PM · hm... I don't think you can find any urtext on it, since it's an arrangement for viola on its own, already. Unless you play exactly the same as reading the cello part an octave higher.

February 10, 2005 at 10:41 PM · The Werner Icking free music archive will provide it for free. All you have to do is download it. Icking's should be an urtext except for the transcription aspect. You should know, however, that the concept of an urtext in this situation is a bit fluid. There is no autograph manuscript in Bach's hand, and what passes for an urtext is essentially an editor's attempt to discern Bach's intent through comparison of 4 or 5 copies that agree on very little. Here is the link:

February 10, 2005 at 11:01 PM · International is cheap and I've found it to be quite good for the most part.

February 11, 2005 at 07:05 AM · Hoffmeister edition is good, as it shows the original cello part with original bowings as well as the transcribed viola part with some other bowing suggestions.


February 11, 2005 at 03:16 PM · Tom is right. There is no manuscript in Bach's own hand. One was copied by his wife and I can't remember if the other was by a son or a student. Anyway the bowings don't always agree.

A violist who has done much research on this tells me that Peter's edition is the best attempt at Urtext your likely to find.

February 11, 2005 at 03:24 PM · I like the Peters edition, too. The only problem I have with it is in the rewriting of the 5th suite to accomodate the scordatura. The editor makes assumptions about string crossings that I don't always find sensible, but overall it's a very scholarly and thoughtful edition.

February 11, 2005 at 04:17 PM · The version at Werner Icking website has both an original and rewritten version to accomodate the scordoratura in Suite #5.

February 12, 2005 at 03:21 PM · Hi,

My personal favorite is the Primrose edition in that it contains most of Bach's original bowings while other editions do some heavy heavy editing.


February 12, 2005 at 09:40 PM · Folks. I am sure there are good editions out there but Werner Icking's archive edition is FREE. It is an urtext, I think, and has alternate versions for the scordatura part in Suite 5. Unless there is some very good reason not to get it, the poster should.

February 13, 2005 at 04:11 AM · Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Tom, that Werner Icking music archive is quite a site. I will keep it in mind for the future as well.

September 14, 2013 at 06:15 PM · You can find a very thorough discussion about the merits of the 16 editions of Bach cello suites transcribed for viola at:

The article in the Journal of the American Viola Society (Summer 2011 edition) is written by Thomas Tatton. He reviews the original sources of each edition. And he evaluates & summarizes how each edition handles 3 of the trickier issues in the suites:

1. 2nd Suite: "cadenza" in the prelude.

2. 5th Suite: scordatura

3. 6th suite: D major (original) or G major (transposed)

Thank you Mr. Tatton!

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