Magazine article Strings

J.S. Bach: Six Suites a Violoncello Solo Senza Basso, Scholarly Critical Performing Edition

Magazine article Strings

J.S. Bach: Six Suites a Violoncello Solo Senza Basso, Scholarly Critical Performing Edition

Article excerpt

J.S. Bach: Six Suites a Violoncello Solo Senza Basso, Scholarly Critical Performing Edition, edited by Bettina Schwemer and Douglas Woodfull-Harris (Barenreiter BA 5216, $39).

If only Bach's autograph manuscript of the Cello Suites would turn up! Without it, this new edition comes as close as possible to resolving at least the first of three dilemmas that vex today's cellists. These are 1) What is the accurate text? 2) How would the suites have been performed in Bach's time? 3) How should they be performed now on a modern cello? This edition provides useful information concerning the second issue, although this question is ultimately unresolvable. The third is beyond the scope of the edition.

The edition comes in seven slim volumes. Five are facsimiles of the four known manuscripts and of the first published edition (1824). The Text Volume discusses these sources, the form and structure of the suites, the cello and bow of Bach's time, and historical performance. The Music Volume is a concordance of the five sources presenting all the variant note readings-it sidesteps the bowing issue by leaving out all slurs, rather like the Vandersal edition-and it includes a normal-tuning version of the Fifth Suite.

Contrary to the edition's descriptive title as a "Performing Edition," I see it as a study edition. The idea is that one would pencil in one's own bowing decisions and perhaps cross out the unchosen notes, but personally, I would not want to mark it up! Also, the variant note readings make it visually awkward to learn and perform from. The layout is well planned, but in some of the longer movements page turns were unavoidable. The basic text closely follows the Anna Magdelena Bach (AMB) manuscript even when all of the other sources, most cellists, and Barenreiter's Neue Ausgabe Bach edition choose another reading. …

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