Bach's Cello Suites: Analyses and Explorations - Vol. 1

Bach's Cello Suites: Analyses and Explorations - Vol. 1

Bach's Cello Suites: Analyses and Explorations - Vol. 1

Bach's Cello Suites: Analyses and Explorations - Vol. 1


J. S. Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello are among the most cherished and frequently played works in the entire literature of music, and yet they have never been the subject of a full-length music analytical study. The musical examples herein include every note of all movements (so one needs no separate copy of the music while reading the book), and undertakes both basic analyses—harmonic reduction, functional harmonic analysis, step progression analysis, form analysis, and syntagmatic and paradigmatic melodic analysis—and specialized analyses for some of the individual movements. Allen Winold presents a comprehensive study intended not only for cellists, but also for other performers, music theorists, music educators, and informed general readers.


Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello have inspired listeners and performers for almost 300 years, and yet there has been no full-length analytical study devoted exclusively to these magnificent works. My first goal in writing this book was to fill this gap by presenting analyses of all the movements of the suites; my second goal was to involve readers actively in the explorations of these works.

I wrote the book for three groups of readers with varied but related interests. I wrote it for cellists and other performing musicians, not to insist that they follow my ideas on how to interpret, perform, and teach these works, but rather to show them how concepts from music analysis could help them form their own ideas on interpreting, performing, and teaching these works. I wrote it for music teachers and for advanced students, not to challenge them with new theories, but to help them explore ways in which traditional analytical techniques and ideas could be made more accessible and meaningful. I wrote it for interested and informed general readers and music listeners, not to give them a superficial survey of the Cello Suites, but to introduce them to the excitement that can come from delving deeply into the study of these works.

To meet these goals and serve these readers, I use analytical techniques from a variety of sources, and I adapt and simplify some of the concepts and techniques to make them easier to understand and apply. All analyses include a set of basic techniques—formal analysis, harmonic reduction, functional harmonic analysis, linear analysis, and melodic analysis. Other specialized analytical techniques are introduced in the analyses of individual movements. the basic analytical concepts used throughout the book are presented in the first two sections of chapters 2 and 3 in conjunction with the study of the Preludes and Allemandes of the First and Second Suites. Readers who wish to focus only on the movements of a single suite should read these sections before reading the discussions of the movements of that particular suite.

The organization of the study reflects an emphasis on active involvement on the part of the reader. Chapter 1 engages readers in an exploration of the historical background of the Cello Suites and presents basic ideas that shape the analytical studies which follow. Chapters 2 through 7 invite readers to explore the individual movements of the suites at the same time they are learning various analytical concepts and techniques. These chapters are organized by movement types rather than by individual suites, to facilitate recognition of common characteristics in each movement type. Chapter 2 discusses the Preludes and introduces basic harmonic and melodic concepts. Chapter 3 discusses the Allemandes and emphasizes concepts of form. Chapter 4 discusses the Courantes and emphasizes detailed investigations of rhythm and melody. Chapter 5 discusses the Sarabandes and introduces some more advanced or speculative ideas. Chapter 6 discusses the optional dances (Minuets, Bourrées, and Gavottes) and explores the relation between music and dance. Chapter 7 discusses the Gigues; and introduces the technique of recomposition. Chapter 8 considers the relations between the movements of the individual suites, and addresses questions of performance practice, textual revision, meaning and emotion in music, and the application of analysis to per-

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