Reflections on Bach essays

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Reflections on Bach essays

Bach’s Cello Suites survive in only two handwritten copies, one by a student, the other in the notebooks of Bach’s wife, Anna Magdalena; however, both people were extremely careless when copying Bach’s bowings, and this is part of the reason why so many contradictory bowings exist today. For example, in the Gigue of the Third Suite some editions use a detached bowing for each note, while other cellists prefer a more connected and flowing bow.. The latter lacks the liveliness thefirst bowing gives the piece, but the sound is more resonant and is more appealing to the audience in a large hall. The polyphonic nature of the pieces is another point worth considering when deciding the bowings, since a wrong bowing might incorrectly interpret a two-part counterpoint passage as a melodic phrase. This is evident in the Prelude of the Third Suite, where alternation of high and low notes appears throughout. Of all the editions I have played, none successfully compromises between the multi-voice texture and technical difficulties. One edition preserved the polyphonic nature by using one bow for each voice, but brought inextricable difficulties. Since the lower voice, which provided the harmony for the upper voice, mainly consisted of passages twice as long as the upper voice, the bow needed to go slower on the lower passages and faster on the upper ones, while at the same time the sound quality had to be maintained on both voices. The simplest solution to technical problems is to use a separate bow on each note, which is what one of the other editions I used did, but in doing so the polyphonic contrast has to be sacrificed. Another fault of the latter edition is that when changing the bow, a slight unwanted noise is produced if the performer eases his caution even slightly; on an inferior instrument like the one I use, unwanted noises are amplified along with the proper sounds, resulting in a not entirely pleasant experience both on the listener…