Editions of the Bach Cello Suites transcribed for viola
For the past five years, I have been using Werner Icking's edition from IMSLP for a viola transcription of the cello suites. I am not completely happy with it. I assume some of you out there have bought other editions. Please let me know your experience with them, particularly if you have also used Icking's. Also, please let me know if any of the editions you have used purports to be an urtext (I am aware that the question of what constitutes an urtext of the cello suites is subject to some controversy because no autograph manuscript exists). Thanks so much for you input.
Simon Rowland-Jones (Peters 7489)
I have William Primrose's edition. The foreward material is fun to read. I don't really like the edition. I bought it for the notes. The edition I like is Valerie Arsenault's violin transcription, so when I want to play one of the pieces from Primrose's edition, I check Arsenault's edition for the bowings. Her bowings are very true to the manuscripts. Arsenault has only very few fingerings but the cello suites are much easier to figure out on your own than the violin solo S&P. I'm probably very biased because I'm accustomed to Arsenault's bowings and I like them.
Thanks. That's all helpful.
I have Rowland Jones' Peters Edition as well. I like the multiple soloutions to the later suites. Its also fairly easy to read
Thanks, Jake. Has anyone had any experience with the Schirmer or International Edition (Katmis) versions?
I concur with Jake's post.
I think it would be a lot more fun to transcribe the originals into the new clef yourself, and then watch (with video) a really good performance so you can decide upon your own bowings and dynamics and fingerings and whathaveyou.
My copy is Schirmer edited by Louis Svecenski. It is many years ago I got it, and I don't remember how I got it, there is no special reason why it is Schirmer. Could be that it was the edition available, but as I said I don't remember.
My playing of the Bach Cello Suites on viola is largely informed by my having played them (at least I - IV plus the Saraband of V) on cello from 1950 to about 2007. My cello edition was the Schirmer publication edited by Frits Galliard (bought by me when publishers were neither ashamed nor hesitant to print a retail price on the front of the book - $1.25 on mine). The bowings were mostly OK with me and any complex cello fingerings you have to work out yourself, anyway. I don't recall if I have any other editions - I don't know why I would, since I can ignore editor's fingerings and bowings and inform my own playing from the dozens of recordings in my iTunes. Rostropovich had wonderful commentaries in his DVD. But if there is any performance that would inform the way I play these it is the recently issued recording of the viola performances by Kim Kashkashian. It is encouraging to find an artist of her stature agreeing with the way I have always heard these in my own "inner ear" and tried to make them sound.
Thanks to all who responded. This is very helpful to me.
Buy Watson Forbes and download the rest. I find it the most playable edition, especially for the last two- without having to deal with scordatura. If you’re performing it publicly, look at a more direct transcription if you prefer.
Since you know them well already, why don't you just read the Anna Magdalena and Kellner MS and decide for yourself where the slurs begin and end? They are all available for download at the Bach digital archiv website and of course IMSLP...
I agree with Adrian's recommendations. Simon-Rowland Jones for as close to urtext as you can get in a viola edition, and Watson Forbes for a very nicely and musically edited edition.
Edward/Dorian - Do both Rowland Jones and Forbes have versions for 5 and 6 that do not require me to do anything special? That is really what I am looking for; easily playable.
Rowland-Jones provides 2 versions of the 5th suite:
Thanks, Adrian. This is what I needed to know.
I'm partial to the Watson Forbes edited one as well (Chester Music) and agree that the 6th Suite in G Major makes sense on the viola.
The sixth suite is totally unsuited to the viola. Heaven knows it is also unsuited to the cello in its four-string format, except when performed by a very few of the elite. The burdens it places on the average cellist are just too grim, and he outcome of the struggle is predictable, while arousing Aristotelian terror and pity in the beholder and the listener. No, so far as the violist is concerned, it is imprudent to attempt it, for the results are usually deplorable. If many arbitrary and abrupt changes of register are to be avoided, the player has to ascend into the unforgiving upper reaches of the viola, an instrument meant for but brief forays into that region.
Aside from the heavily chorded Bourree movements, the 6th Suite is quite playable on the viola and as I said, works well in G. I wouldn't dream of playing it in D, though, without a 5-string instrument.
I arranged the Bourrées of the 6th suite for violin plus viola, in D major.
I was quoting Primrose in my post above! He acknowledged that one solution is to play it in G.
I got the Rowland-Jones edition. I like it a lot. It is easily readable, in addition to the choices for ## 5 and 6. Thanks all.
On a related subject, I have arranged a number of gorgeous gamba works by Marin Marais, Sainte Colombe etc for viola. Here too I often transpose up one fourth, which uses the viola strings better than grumbling semiquavers on the C-string and awkward octave shifts in the middle of a passage. The highest strings of both instruments have a similar strident quality.