Feb 21, 2016

How do we play the Gigue of Partita No.6 ?

This article is not for Cello Suites but for


Partita for keyboard, No.6 in E min. (BWV 830)

Bach wrote two Gigues in binary notation, usually written in ternary (3/8, 6/8, 12/8, etc.) : in "French Suite" No.1 (BWV 812) and in "Partita for keyboard" No.6.

The time signature of "French Suite" is 2/2 (2 half notes in a bar) but that of "Partita" is most unusual 2/1 (2 whole notes in a bar) !

    French Suite No.1 (autograph, 1722)

   Partita No.6 (first edition, 1731)

But in the autograph of 1725, he wrote it in 2/2.

I don't know why Bach changed time signature when he engraved it. Probably he wanted to avoid to be played too fast. But in his original idea, both Gigue has same signature, so we must not play that of "Partita" too slowly. But most interpretations of this Gigue are very very slow. Why ? Because they play it in binary rhythm as it written.

No, no, it is a Gigue ! So it must be played in ternary rhythm. Binary notation of gigue is a tradition from the time of Froberger (1616 - 1667) but practically, it was played in ternary.

Very interestingly, Froberger wrote the same gigue in two notations: in binary (4/4) and in ternary (3/4). We can consider the latter is the realisation of the former.
   in Suite VII
   in Suite XXIII

So, we will try to play Bach's "Gique" (according to his spelling) in ternary. I show you the 1st page of my realisation.

It is better you continue it. It will be a very interesting puzzle !  

Complete score of my realisation is in IMSLP.

Audio file by synthesizer (piano)

Of course, my realisation is an example. There will be plural possibilities especially in the series of four 8th notes. 

I can't believe no one played it in this way during probably 200 years ! This is a Gigue, why no one tried to play as a Gigue.

Yes, I know some players (such as Trevor Pinnock, András Schiff, etc.) play in ternary rhythm. This approach was proposed by Howard Ferguson. 

But to be precise, it isn't ternary but senary because a half note is divided in six. So we can say it is still binary because a half note is firstly divided in two and then is divided in three. It is mere notes inégales or swing, not ternary nor Gigue.

Jan 28, 2016

Error of the 20th century (2nd Suite: Gigue)

Bar 28, last note: most editions of 20th century (such as Wenzinger, Fournier, Tortelier, Henle, etc.) take b-natural according to Anna Magdalena Bach (AMB). But it is probably an error.

Kellner and Souces C and D take e as below. The notes d-e-f draw natural ascendant line.

   Source C:

   Source D:

There is a parallel period from bar 61 but it isn't the same. In the bar 65 (far right), the diminished 7th (c-sharp - b-flat) is divided into two 16th notes, so it is natural to draw descendant line (g - e - c-sharp).

Most editions of the 19th century such as Paris first edition (1824), Dotzauer (1826), Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe (BGA/1879), Klengel (1900), etc. had taken e. But after publishing Alexanian edition (1929) that includes the facsimile of AMB's manuscript, most editions followed it.  


History sometimes regresses.

By the way, some cellists play as follows:

They are right because they aren't content with AMB, but of course it is an incorrect solution. Composer often avoids to repeat the same thing.

Jan 18, 2016

Scordatura, too complicated

5th Suite  in C minor  BWV 1011



5th Suite is played with cello whose 1st string is tuned in G; whole tone lower to normal tuning (A). Such tuning is called Scordatura in Italian.

Its advantage is to be able to play the chords of C minor easily. But to write the note is complicated.

Only the notes for 1st string are written whole tone higher. So c (real note) is written as d. But the notes for other strings are written normally. So sometimes it is not clear that the notes of higher a or b are for 1st string (G) or 2nd string (D).

So we had mistaken this note (1st note of bar 170) .

   From the copy of Anna Magdalena Bach:

For a long time, we had considered this note is g (real note) for open 1st string. But it is a mistake. It is a-natural (real note) for 2nd string. Because from next bar, we hear lower pedal point of dominant (G), it is strange to hear the same note before. It must be secondary dominant (dominant of dominant / Doppeldominante) chord like previous bar (bar 169).

Yes, indeed, in the arrangement for lute, Bach uses dominant of dominant chord during 2 bars.

   From bar 167:

   Transposed into C minor (from bar 166):

Bach added the bass notes that don't exist in the Cello Suite, therefore, he had changed the 1st note of bar 170, but the chord is no doubt dominant of dominant.

And if this note is g, it is the same as bar 167 (3 bars before), why did Bach write these notes differently? There is no reason to use different string in the bar 167 and bar 170. It is natural to use 2nd string for the 1st notes from bar 166 to bar 170.

This note is no doubt a-natural (real note) for 2nd string. Of course if you play the 5th Suite with normal tuned cello, you can play this note with open A-string.

Sep 18, 2014

The finale (6th suite: Gigue)

6th Suite  in D major  BWV 1012



Bar 8, 4th note: Most editions show e according to Anna Magdalena Bach (AMB) (and Sources C and D):

But it is probably a mistake because the 7th chord of next bar requires c-sharp as a preparation of suspension. Only Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe (BGA/1879) take c-sharp according to Kellner:


   BGA (but the chord of next bar is a mistake since Paris first edition):

I show you the harmony reduction for easy understanding:

Bar 18, 2nd half: Some editions take e, c-charp, e in 8th notes according to AMB (and Sources C and D). But I think it is AMB's error. I can't prove it but I can't find any reason to modify from charming figuration same as bar 2 into three 8th notes. They are too poor, dull, unnatural. So I took Kellner's figuration.

   AMB (2nd bar of figure below):


Sep 5, 2014

Two forgotten sharps (6th Suite)


6th Suite  in D major  BWV 1012


in Sarabande

Bar 31: 1st bass note is g-sharp, not g (c-sharp, not c in G major). We see it in Kellner's copy. Anna Magdalena has forgotten to write it.

   Kellner's copy (attention! the first bar (bar 30) is the alto clef):

in Gavotte 1

In this case, we see it in Anna Magdalena's copy. Bar 7: First bass note is e-sharp, not e (a-sharp, not a in G major) although most editors of Cello Suites neglect it. (But the highest note of the last chord is a mistake. It is not e, but c-sharp)

Both sharps form natural chromatic processions of bass and both sharps are so charming, aren't they?

In the case of Sarabande, it corresponds to preceding chromatic procession of bass (bar 28 - 29).

   Gavotte 1:

It is very interesting that all the later sources are different from each other about bar 31 of Sarabande.

   Source C:

   Source D:

    Paris first edition (same as Anna Magdalena):

We can imagine Source G (the matrix of these three sources; see Preface) was the same as Anna magdalena. But the copyists of Sources C and D were not content with it. Yes, they are right. I show you last three bars of Anna Magdalena's copy (= Source G) by omitting all the rests and anticipations.

We understand easily that extended g of bass is too long, unnatural. It must be changed into another note at the second bar. The copyists of Sources C and D tried each solution. Paris first edition (and naturally Source E) did not change it.

Two neglected g (6th Suite: Prélude)


6th Suite  in D major  BWV 1012



Bar 86, last note: Here, I took g (c in G major) according to Kellner. I think Anna Magdalena has mistaken. It is a little thing, so a (d in G major) is also possible but g is more natural than a. 

Bar 91, last note: 4 manuscript copies show (c  in G major) unanimously.
What a beautiful 7th note it is! Why most editions took a, except Bazelaire and Henle edition? It is a shameful tradition from Paris first edition!


   Anna Magdalena:

   Source C:

   Source D:

   Paris First Edition (written an octave higher):

Sep 4, 2014

The 6th Suite isn't difficult

The 6th suite was written for 5-string instrument tuned in c-g-d-a-e. Therefore it is too difficult to play it with normal 4-string cello. So I transposed it in G major, fifth lower than original.

It will be very practical not only for amateurs but also for professional cellists and if you have a chance to play 5-string cello, the fingerings for 4-string can also be applied to 5-string.

Now, the 6th Suite isn't difficult. Let's try it!

6th Cello Suite transposed in G major (without slurs) edited by Shin-Itchiro Yokoyama PDF

With Lute arrangement (5th Suite: Prélude)


5th Suite  in C minor  BWV 1011



Bar 5, 2nd beat (3rd quarter note), we find this "turn" (Bach called it "cadence") in Anna Magdalena's copy.

   examples of execution:

From bar 43 to bar 46, it is a little complicated. Kellner and Anna Magdalena are the same, so we can say that is Bach's thought. But the arrangement for lute by Bach himself (BWV 995) is different from them.

I show you another score for better understanding.

Please look at the large noteheads. In Kellner and Anna Magdalena, they are e-flat, e-natural and d-flat, d-natural. In lute arrangement, e-natural, e-natural and d-natural, d-natural. Both are logical and both are beautiful. So we need not change the notes.

Bach did not arrange the 5th suite for lute faithfully. Its typical example is the last chord of Prelude. In Cello Suite, it is major chord but in Lute Suite, minor!

Bar 193, 3rd note, most editions take g according to Anna Magdalena. But Kellner and Lute arrangement show a-natural. Therefore I take a-natural. I suppose Anna Magdalena corrected it from g to a (look at the notehead, she has rewritten it) but she had forgotten to add an accidental.

Sep 2, 2014

Errata of the New Bärenreiter Urtext

There are some errors (sometimes grave) in the "Scholarly Critical Performing Edition" of the New Bärenreiter Urtext (2000) of Bach's Cello Suites.

This edition shows the differences among all the 4 manuscripts and Paris first edition, such as:

This idea is very good, but the gravest error of this edition is to be too arbitrary. The editors say "Apart from correcting the obvious mistakes in the sources, the editors have done their utmost to remain as neutral as possible..." Oh no! They have omitted the most important things as shown below. It should be the users, not editors who decide which is error or which is true.

  1st Suite  in G major  BWV 1007


From bar 33, 3rd beat: It neglects double stems (= double stoppings).
See the article "Neglected double stoppings"

   Grave error:

   Correction (the little staves were omitted):

Bar 26: Error:


Bar 27: Error:



Between bar 31 and 32: It neglects the half-bar (why!?).
See also the article "A strange half-bar"

   Grave error:


To be continued...