Ysaye Scales and Bach Sonatas and Partitas

August 14, 2006 at 08:58 PM · Does anybody know of the scale book written (?) or edited (?) by Eugene Ysaye? Something about stressing the 2nd and 4th position of playing scales? I'm desperately trying to find it, and I came across a certain "Exercises et Gammes" by Ysaye, not sure if that's the same thing. Anybody know what it's called, and where I can buy it?

Also, what is the most recommended (by violin authorities) edition for the Bach Sonatas and Partitas? I have the International Edition edited by Ivan Galamian, and was recently told that it was a terrible edition. :)

Replies (28)

August 14, 2006 at 09:18 PM · I have the Henle urtext of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas. I'd reconmend it.

August 14, 2006 at 09:48 PM · Julie, the book that you are talking about is called "Dix Preludes" op.35 by Ysaÿe, published by Schott Freres with product number SF8905. Basically they are 10 short prelude exercises range from the unison interval to tenths. Schott Freres the publisher (different to Schott International) is closed ages ago, as far as I know, but some of their prints are still available and are supplied by Schott International. For these 10 Preludes, you can get it via Schott website. Very interesting work indeed.

The "Exercices et Gammes" by Ysaÿe is simply a plain scale book, but very interesting with his way of teaching. Also publised by Schott Freres with product number SF9484.

August 14, 2006 at 09:34 PM · While I'm far from a musical authority, I took the recommendation from my professor-to-be in the fall, Dr. Julian Ross. He and I both use Barenreiter (I can never spell it, so authorities please forgive me), and I love it.

August 14, 2006 at 09:55 PM · Hi Julie i bought and download this Ysaye interesting work in www.everynote.com (just $2.44). Is no so clear but is good to me in my country is really difficult find rare violin music.

August 14, 2006 at 11:05 PM · Greetings,

no, the Galamian edition of the Bach is -very- good indeed. It is an ideal place to start and can keep you going for a long time. There is , in my opinion, a considerably more artistic version by Henryk Szeryng that provides solutions to bwoing and fingering problems that only one of the greatest artists of all could get to. Thus at some point I think it is healthy to switch to the Szeryng from the Galamian, but there is no hurry.

I also have the Barenreiter edition (among others) and yes it is a beautiful clean copy that is a pleasure to work from. But I do not fully agree with a trend I have noticed recently of suggesting people strat out with the unadorned version. In my opinion, the argument that studnets should learn to make their own mistakes and be original with their bowings and fingerings in the Bach is not as productive as one would think and it is not so easy to unlearn something one has really comitted to. In general I think itr is better to work from a good edition with your teacher and as your ideas evolve over time and much study you have the tools to sit down with a blank text and find your individual voice. It takes many years. There is way too much jumping the gun in the violin world these days,

All the best,


August 15, 2006 at 01:59 AM · Greetings friends:

I have to agree with Stephen on this one.

There are certainly pros and cons with the Galamian edition of Bach. It is a perfect student edition. By this I mean that Galamian was a master at efficient bowings and fingerings, so his Bach is treated, in many ways, like a very elaborate set of etudes. This is a VERY good way to be introduced to these works that will last a violinist his/her entire life.

For the more advanced player who is interested in "authentic" Bach performing, it is of course essential that one use either the Baerenreiter or the Henle URTEXT editions--FOR REFERENCE. Keep in mind that Bach and his copyists rarely put bowing indications (slurs, etc.). Do not mistake these "clean" editions as authentic ways of PERFORMING. This is the beauty of Bach--the individual style each performer can bring to the music--if done in an informed way.

Study performance practice of Baroque phrasing, sluring, articulation. Then make decisions as to how to proceed. Galamian bowings and fingerings do not typically keep in the forefront stylisic concerns--particularly in the area of color (which string to use).

The Szeryng edition is great.

Keep in mind that scholars differ from time to time, which is why there will be differences between Henle and Baerenreiter. I have seen this quite frequently in the Handel Sonatas for Violin, for example.



August 15, 2006 at 02:25 AM · Buri makes good points. Opposite what I would have written, I think, but his post gave me pause! Of course I now play from a "clean" edition, but that isn't how I learned them at all. What does that say? I guess I often waste a lot of time with some students taking their blank copies and putting helpful bowings and fingerings in them that, by coincidence, resemble the Galamian markings I grew up with. :)

I think my teacher did the right thing for me when I was 11 and learning Bach for the first time. He let me learn the g minor sonata much the same way I did my Suzuki pieces, through repetition and imitation. It's my favorite to perform to this day. But with the others I had to make more decisions. That helped me enormously as well.

Am I right that the Henle edition contains two books, one clean and the other edited? That's one solution, albeit an expensive one. Especially when the International edition has the clean version in the back. Nearly unreadable, but it's there.

I think I'll still advise my students to get the Barenreiter and mark it in pencil. They're mostly older anyway, and in need of some decision-making study.

August 15, 2006 at 03:15 AM · Thanks, everybody, and especially Kenny, because you pointed out the book that I was looking for. :)

August 15, 2006 at 05:54 PM · Oh, I also dug out my older version of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas edited by Hermann, and I noticed that it contained many of the bowings that my teacher suggested to me. What do you guys think of the Hermann-edited edition?

August 16, 2006 at 11:09 AM · Have a look at


for a free "Urtext" copy of the sonatas and partitas.


August 16, 2006 at 01:19 PM · Julie - I would agree with Buri on the Szeryng edition which is excellent. It is an urtext in the sense that Szeryng lets you know what is Bach's original text and what are Szeryng's edits. It also has some very useful explanatory material on baroque practice and on playing the S&Ps themselves. Finally, it is relatively inexpensive.

I never really liked the Galamian except for the fact that it contains the manuscript. Many times, I would not care for his bowings, and, when I looked at the manuscript, discovered that Bach's bowings were different and better.

I think the Barenreiter is also a very good edition.

August 16, 2006 at 01:42 PM · "Julie - I would agree with Buri on the Szeryng edition which is excellent. It is an urtext in the sense that Szeryng lets you know what is Bach's original text and what are Szeryng's edits. It also has some very useful explanatory material on baroque practice and on playing the S&Ps themselves. Finally, it is relatively inexpensive."

What format does it give you both "editions"? I had an edition once (got the Barenreiter on recommendation because the other was so bad and it molded - long story) that gave both the urtext and the edited with suggested fingerings/bowings, but the edited was in regular size print while each line of the urtext was about half as small on each corresponding line. It was horrible.

August 16, 2006 at 05:58 PM · With the S&Ps, the only thing you need to be able to distinguish are the suggested bowings (the slurs) from the originals (Bach only put in one fingering, in Partita 3, and he put in very few dynamic notations). If I recall correctly (I have not used the edition for several weeks), Szeryng's slurs are dotted or hatched lines and Bach's slurs are complete lines.

One thing that is important to keep in mind: for the S&P's, the "urtext" is some editor's best guess as to what Bach wrote. If you look at the manuscript, it is often difficult to tell which notes are included in the slurs, and Bach was not totally consistent, so comparing an ambiguous marking to similar passages does not necessarily resolve the issue.

August 16, 2006 at 07:52 PM · Friends,

Be VERY careful when discussing the manuscript that is printed in the back of the Galamian edition. This has NOT been proven to be in Bach's hand. In fact, it is likely that he did NOT create this particular copy. These Sonatas/Partitas were copied several times. The reference to the fingering cannot be attributed to Bach, nor can phrase markings as BOWINGS. Keep in mind that Bach didn't deal in bowings as he was a keyboardist. Where they exist, they are phrase markings. One must have knowledge of performance practice to really understand the many possible bowings that can be added to any baroque work.



August 16, 2006 at 08:04 PM · In my humble opinion, some of Galamian's fingerings are just weird! Szeryng of course puts in some 19th-century nonsense but on the whole I like the Szeryng edition better. One major advantage to the Szeryng edition (published by Schott) is for the arpeggiated section in the Chaconne, just the chords are printed, instead of spelling out the arpeggios like Galamian does. The end result is, that entire section, which takes about ten pages in the Galamian edition, fits on half a page. And you don't have to turn the page every four measures.

August 16, 2006 at 08:16 PM · Peter,

Yes, the Bach manuscript was in fact written by Magdalena Bach's hand.

August 16, 2006 at 08:14 PM · Again, let me say that Galamian never claimed to be an expert on baroque style. His fingerings and bowings, while they may seem awkward at first, when they learned are typically VERY efficient and practical on a purely violinistic level. This is precisely why the Galamian edition is effective for STUDENTS. Galamian bows and fingers Bach in the same manner he bows and fingers Etudes. The advanced player, if so inclined to play in an "authentic" manner will be better served with the Szeryng and Baerenreiter editions.


August 16, 2006 at 09:36 PM · Hi,

As far as I knew the manuscript in the Galamian is a facsimile of the manuscript in Bach's hand. It seems fairly well stated everywhere that this manuscript is probably the best preserved in Bach's hand and has served for every edition as a primary source since it was discovered by Joseph Joachim a century ago.

Former editions were based on copies by Anna Magdalena which are different in some places. Those copies still serve as references for comparison in the Barenreiter, Szeryng and Henle editions.

Julia: the edition you are refering to on two staves is the Joachim-Moser edition. It was the first to be based on the original manuscript by Bach after Joachim had discovered it. The had requested permission for the then owner to publish their edition with a facsimile of it but were denied permission except for the first page. So, the two staves version was viewed as the best alternative by Joachim and his assistant Moser.


August 16, 2006 at 10:30 PM · Julie - what is your source for your assertion that the manuscript is in Ana M.'s hand. I have never seen that anywhere and a comparison of Bach manuscripts with Ana's copies of other manuscripts shows that it is not in her hand.

August 16, 2006 at 10:34 PM · A prominent violinist named Aaron Rosand stated that the "original" manuscript of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas were not written by J.S. Bach, but instead by Magdalena Bach.

August 17, 2006 at 12:20 AM · Greetings,

just to back track on aprevious coment that Bach was a keyboard rather than a string player. This is not actually fully correct. Contempary accounts including those of his son(s) state that he played the violin well. Nor do I believe a keyboard player (only)could write such beautiful and violinistic music.



August 17, 2006 at 12:45 AM · Peter, Bach did play the violin quite well. It has also been documented that he enjoyed playing the middle voices on the viola. He certainly must've been able to play the viola da gamba and cello with some proficiency to write such great works for these instruments as well. - Johnny

August 17, 2006 at 04:45 AM · Hello again,

If you all reread what I wrote, you will find that I never said Bach was NOT a string player. In point of fact, I know he was. He was even a concertmaster of sorts for a brief period. However, HIS instrument was the organ. Clearly, to have composed the greatest music for the violin and NOT have a deep understanding of the instrument would have been quite an incredible feat. Rather, what I suggesting was that since his occupation was as a keyboardist and composer, he didn't bother himself with the specifics of bowing. You must remember that Bach had to crank out music constantly for church services. I was merely suggesting that we should be wise about our scrutiny of these manuscripts.

Make no mistake, Bach was a virtuoso organist. The same could NOT be said of his violin playing. It is widely accepted that Bach did NOT compose his S&P for his own use. In fact, Bach likely learned the violin from his father and, while Bach was probably able to play his own Violin Concertos, it is unlikely he had the technical facility to master his own S&P. There are plenty of great composers in history who would never have been able to play their own music.

Speaking of the manuscripts, to clear up any confusion, I must direct your attention to the forward of the Galamian edition in which the facsimiles appear:

"After Bach's death, much of his glorious music was neglected, even forgotten. The manuscript of the six sonatas and partitas for solo violin, in fact, was discovered in 1814 in St. Petersburg among a stack of old paper destined to be used as wrappings in a butter shop. At least two other copies, NOT IN THE COMPOSER'S HAND, were in existence, however, and one had appeared in print as early as 1802."


August 17, 2006 at 11:50 AM · Calm down guys...

why aren't we talking more about Ysaye? Only about 10% replies to the original post are about Ysaye... while we have been talking about Bach's S&P loads of time before...

August 17, 2006 at 01:00 PM · Hi,

Peter, not that I want to contradict you, but the history of Performance Practice of the Bach S&P and the history of the editions was the source of a major paper in my graduate studies...

The story in the Galamian is the romanticized version of the discovery. The closer to the truth one (though the romantic may be of truth as well), was that the document in Bach's hand was discovered by Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser in the late 19th century. It was in the possession of a then physician whose name escapes me. There were editions published in the early 19th century on a copy by Anna Magdalena (which contains a number of discrepancies), although the C Major Fugue appeared as early as 1798 in J.B. Cartier's "L'Art du violon". There are two copies by Anna Magdalena, one of which was the source for most 19th century editions, including the first Complete Works Edition of the Works of Bach. However, the manuscript at the basis of most 20th century editions from Joachim on was the one's in Bach's hand. Experts have certified it as being in Bach's own hand, and probably the best fair copy that he wrote.

Now it is possible that Mr. Rosand mentioned above knows something that has been passed down from Joachim to Auer to Zimbalist to himself that we don't know about, but I don't know...

It is true that Bach played the violin quite well as Peter states, however, it is unlikely that he composed the S&P's for his own use though he perhaps did play them in private (there is one fingering in the Gavotte of the third Partita that appears to be in Bach's hand...). The most likely person for whom they were intended was Johann Pisendel.

All of that said, critical editions like the Barenreiter and Henle, and Szeryng are based on the manuscripts with cross-references to the other copies in case of doubt or discrepancies. Notes-wise, they are all good. I find that it is good to compare what the composer wrote with the performers suggestions for fingerings and bowings in various editions, if nothing else to enlighten one's own choices.

On the subject of the Ysaÿe - there is an Ysaÿe Scale book which is very interesting. The Ten Preludes are his last work (I believe that they are incomplete) and offer much insights into the master's art (like his solo sonatas). I believe that they are incomplete. In the manuscript, one can see Ysaÿe's handwriting degenerate as he goes along (he suffered from a trembling hand, probably due to his uncontrolled diabetes).


August 17, 2006 at 02:24 PM · Julie - where did Rosand make that statement?

If you believe this, I invite you to compare the facsimile S&Ps manuscript at the end of Galamian with the facsimile manuscript included in one of the International Edition versions of the Cello Suites (name of the editor escapes me) which I am pretty sure is Ana M.'s copy of those pieces. NIght and day.

August 17, 2006 at 03:14 PM · He made it in a violin masterclass where I was present.

August 18, 2006 at 01:13 PM · Julie - notwithstanding the great respect I have for Mr. Rosand, I invite you to try the comparison I have suggested.

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