Bach Prelude (G major suite) fingering help for viola

May 18, 2019, 7:14 PM · Hi!

I'm working on the first Bach suite (why do I torture myself so willingly?) and I'm having trouble with the second last measure, the F# C D arpeggio. If I try to do it F#(3) and C(4) in third position, either the F# is flat or the C is sharp.

I'm also having trouble four measures after the fermata, where it's E A(4) B D(0) G(1 in third pos) A C G C# Bb A Bb Bb A G# A. Do I just need to reach for that C#, or should I just play that in first position? I feel like the adapter was looking for the D string color, rather than A string.

Is there another way I can play those?

FYI my hands are small and I have short pinkies (#blessed).

Also, I'm using the Schirmer edition, adapted and revised by Louis Svcénski, if that helps.

Replies (8)

May 18, 2019, 8:33 PM · Half position might be better, 4-3-0 for f#-c-d.
The main reason for doing the passage after the fermata in 3rd is to minimize string crosdings. There is NO reason, however, not to make string crossings part of the interpretive 'theme' i.e.,do them for musical reasons, not because it is easier.
May 18, 2019, 9:30 PM · Hi Marjory,

Could you explain the first part further? I'm a little confused why you said half position (unless you mean between second and third), and also how I would use 3 on F# and 4 on C, since that seems like it would put my fourth finger underneath/behind my third finger.

I might just be having problems visualizing it, but a clearer explanation would be helpful. :)

As for the last part, I think I'll experiment both ways! :)

May 19, 2019, 10:23 AM · Hi Kristen,

The last 4 bars feel great in 4th position. Just climb on up there in the 5th last bar.

After the fermata, stay in 1st position! No need to play on D string.

Lastly, I'm afraid that the edition you have is really not a good one. There are some older editions which aren't too bad (like the Forbes), but the Schirmer ain't great.

If you go onto IMSLP, you can find a few options. The one by Werner Icking is pretty good. Mostly lower position fingerings, which works great for Bach....and the bowings are more reliable.

Have fun! It's marvelous :)


May 19, 2019, 12:46 PM · As for the four bars after the fermata, I just play the whole thing in first position. Are you referring to measure 26? It's the closest I can find.
Edited: May 19, 2019, 3:50 PM · I don't have the Schirmer ed., but I am looking at measures 15-16. 4th finger f# on C string, 3rd finger c nat on G string, open d. That sets up nicely for measure 16, also 1/2 pos, slipping the hand-frame down 1/2 step. And back for 17 & 18.I find the the 3rd finger to be more stable than 2nd; prob'ly matter of training & taste. And I love 1/2 position for its utility
May 19, 2019, 8:50 PM · Ohh, Marjory it's not down on the C string, it's F# on the A string, sorry about the confusion! It's the penultimate measure before the ending chord. As for m. 16, I think you're right! I do like half position there.

Thank you David, you're a big help! I probably should have done some more research before getting the edition I have, but many of the other Schirmer parts I have for oboe and whatnot are nice, so I figured this would be a good one. I do like to have hard copies that are in books, so where online would you recommend I pick up a copy of a good edition? I like IMSLP for short term or if I can't buy it, but I like to have my collection of originals :) I can always check with my luthier and see if he's got any others in stock. He doesn't usually have a huge variety of more advanced rep since most of his clientele are younger students.

Edited: May 20, 2019, 2:42 AM · 1) The 2nd & 3rd fingertips have to overlap. Elbow well to the right.
2) Stretch to the C# and contract the hand into 4th position (4212), then 3rd position for the 4th beat.

I have short fingers..

And the viola A is so different from the other 3.

May 20, 2019, 6:02 AM · Hi Kristen,

I have a huge stack of editions acquired when I was a many of them not useful now as better ones have come out. I can't get rid of them of course! They are colorful and bring back many memories...

If you look at the original manuscript of the cello suites (by Bach's wife), and compare it with your Schirmer edition... you might scratch your head and wonder where on earth all these markings came from. There are no markings of any kind in the originals (no dynamics, no articulation marks, no expressive directions of any kind). It can be hard to tell sometimes which notes are contained within the slur, but usually this only is a small mystery (is it 3 slurred and 1 separate, or 1 separate and 3 slurred?).

The Schirmer editor "solved" that problem by just ignoring the slurs in the manuscript, and putting in whatever he wanted.

You will find many violists recommend the fine Peters edition edited by Rowland Jones. It is great, but very sparing (no fingerings). If you wish for a nice edition, edited by a thoughtful person who really looked hard at the original manuscripts and tried to honor them - as well as make it work for the viola - I'd recommend the Chester Edition, edited by Watson Forbes. It is green colored!

But don't be concerned! It is such a fun journey....the bowings and markings aren't really the essence of it. It is nice to work from a good edition though.



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