Does playing Bach's Cello Suite Prelude on a violin change its meaning?
I have a naive dilettante question about Bach’s Cello Suites and the famous prelude. I have watched the YouTube video where cellist Alisa Weilerstein deconstructed and explained how it works. She talks about the two main chords; the G being tonic which gives tension and the D being dominant and gives a release in tension.
So here is my question. I am learning to play it on the violin (the version from www.virtualsheetmusic.com - transcribed by Fabrizio Ferarri). However, that is in the Key of D with the leading note being D. Does this still work? Will you have the same amount of tension as if it was in the key of G? I guess another way of stating my question is if the feeling of a chord being dominant and its tonic giving release is the same for all chords?
Generalizing my question, does a transcription, in a different key require a different interpretation of playing because the change in key changes the intention that Bach had by choosing the original key?
If my questions do not make sense Sorry! Like I said I am just an amateur stumbling but trying to learn ...
Basic answer is: yes, it all works just the same. Bach transcribed other people's work and his pieces into different keys all the time.
No, the dominant relation of D to G is uniquely holy and divine and transposing it to any other key destroys the magic and is spitting in the face of Bach himself!
When Suzuki finally got around to issuing "his books" for viola and cello the same pieces were used in the early books, but transposed so what was on strings I, II and III for violin remained on strings I, II and III for viola and cello, just as it is with this Bach transposition.
I don’t think the key matter much. It lacks the timbre and depth of a cello so that will inherently make it a very different sounding piece. The Vivaldi 4 violin concerto sounds completely different in the 4 harpsichord arrangement by Bach. So, the same can deffintley be said here but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value it’s just different.
The D major Gavotte appears in Suzuki violin 5 in D major (although the chord harmonies did not all get transcribed exactly and are notated in parentheses so likely not all teachers do them). When I realized that, my first thought was about the cello technique required to play "all those E string notes".
If transposed to D, then the dominant will be A. So the harmonic relationship doesn't change.
The Bach cello suites are lovely on the violin. Szeryng (and others) have said you should learn them before doing the Bach solo sonatas for violin. That could explain why there are some movements of them in the Suzuki books as Andy mentioned.
@Paul. I agree the sixth suite is brutal on viola but I wouldn't want to be without the fifth. However, after 40 years I finally noticed that in the original the cello A string is instructed to be tuned down to G and the score is written in scordatura. Maybe the viola version could lie more comfortably that way? IMSLP has it. And on the violin, why not? Just imagine you're playing a small viola.
It's many years since I played these, and I'm no musicologist.....
I think Daniel is referring to the 1st suite in G.
Having given it a go I can't say Suite No.5 sounds or feels greatly different in scordatura, once you remember always to play the open "A" (now G) string rather than finger a fifth on the D string. And of course it takes a bit of getting used to that what you see on the stave isn't exactly what you get.
To the contrary, I think playing the music on a violin sometimes clarifies the music better, because the instrument is smaller and thus its parts easier to reach more fluidly. However it's an unfair advantage, and violinists have their own solo Bach repertoire, so I wouldn't suggest "stealing" the music from cellists (entirely :).
It has been said that Bach's 5th cello suite may have had its origin as a piece for the lute. If this is so then that would explain the desirability of a scordatura when transferred to the cello. Note that the lute's courses are tuned mainly in 4ths with a 3rd in there somewhere.
Wow… so much good information to think and learn about.
The Prelude from the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 is nice and all, but it's no Kreutzer No. 13!
I believe Xuanyuan was suggesting the E major prelude from the 3rd violin partita, not from the cello suites. It's much harder than the other things you have mentioned. I respectfully disagree with his suggestion; it's hard to imagine he was being serious.
There's another aspect to Daniel's question that hinges on the word "meaning". You might say Bach's suites are pure music with no meaning at all, but playing them in a higher register undoubtedly alters the impression they create on a listener, not to say the player. Bach surely had a certain sound atmosphere in mind; as I play them on the violin I find it hard to get a feeling of what you might call "authenticity", mainly because the sound is too shrill without sufficient weight in the bass. But I'm keen to work on them some more.
I saw Bashmet do the Bach S&P on the viola on TV maybe 25 or more years ago.
That's interesting. I do find the viola encourages a more reflective, maybe even nostalgic style, but can the same notes (albeit in different registers) do double duty?
Here the Prelude played in one viola made by me, violist Esther Apituley, Amsterdam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKe-t17VUNM
Play the suites on violin, and viola. And, if you can, play the S&P on cello. It's remarkable how each instrument adds something special to the music.
@Adrian Heath: re Bach's Magnificat transposed into D: I think this was necessary to allow him to add trumpets. Baroque trumpets were limited in the notes they could play, and D major was their 'best' key. Similarly, his selected key for the B minor Mass allowed him to modulate to the relative major for the joyous and triumphant movements. It ends in D major. Composers generally have strong feelings and associations for particular keys, but sometimes the choice is a practical one.
It's all about transposing to another key, and that's totally fine, same tension/release proportions apply.
On the cello, the suites are intended to highlight the nearly universal damnation of all mankind to eternal torture in a subterranean inferno. On the violin, the suites portray a sunny field of spring flowers. So I think the answer to your question is definitely "Yes."
To me some of the cello suite movements sound shrill and nervy when played on the violin. No music is pitch-independent and there comes a point when transposition up or down makes it sound ridiculous - remember the Chipmunks?
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