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arglebargle

Bach 4th suite prelude bowing

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Hi all,

I have recently started working on the 4th suite prelude and I am looking for advice on bowing.

I am an adult, non-professional player, and I do not currently have a teacher.

I am wondering what others use for bowing on the prelude.

 

I started out playing the main pattern with a down bow followed by two slurred, down, up, two slurred, and up.

I like the feel it gives the figures, but it's a little difficult and seems overly complicated.

 

Considering how many players just use separate bows for it all, I gave it a try. (I recently heard a wonderful player play the whole thing in an informal setting with separate bows and was blown away.) I find it a bit easier, but I am not fond of the sound I get. It is going to take a lot of work on my bowing technique to smooth it out.

 

I'm not sure which one is best to focus my efforts on.

 

Any thoughts and opinions would be welcome.

Thanks!

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 Hi arglebargle. You probably mean Partita No. 3 - Prelude. And the part you mean is probably the bariolage where you use three strings - E, A, and D - by playing on the fifth position. And later, on A, D, G.

 

 The bowing you describe (down - up two slur - down) - (up - down two slur - up) and so on actually seems unnecessary to me. I mean, unless you have a really good bow technique. Otherwise, it will sound very uneven and messy. (Even if you did have a great bow technique, I'd advise against it unless you know how to phrase it well.) Just play them with separate bows, but with good articulation.

 

 Also, bowing is really important to Bach, so you probably should work on some etudes (Wohlfahrt, Kreutzer, Hrimaly, etc.) to prep up for it.

 

 Have fun!

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Hi all,

I have recently started working on the 4th suite prelude and I am looking for advice on bowing.

I am an adult, non-professional player, and I do not currently have a teacher.

I am wondering what others use for bowing on the prelude.

 

 

 

AB,

For a non-professional I have to say you're ambitious as the day is long.  Fact is, you've settled on the main problem in the suite (in addition to the key, of course!)  

I like your suggestion because I think all separate would drive me to distraction.  Keep in mind that just because you start out with any given bowing doesn't mean  you're married to it for the whole prelude.  

Also, I think two & two is perfectly fine, but of course just because you play two notes on one bow does not necessarily mean slurred, but you already know that, right?  Variety of sound (i.e. not necessarily bowing) is the key to maintaining interest of your audience!

Good luck, and have fun.

As I always like to say when friends are faced with difficult/unpleasant tasks, "Better you than me!"

(Joking.  Sort of.)

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 Sorry about that. I think you should probably sing it first, to get an idea of HOW you want it to sound. Take your time with it. Then, exercise string crossings a LOT. Probably never enough, but better than none.

 

 The problem with the player you posted is that he is not doing a very good job bringing the melody and rhythm that Bach would have appreciated to the listener. Once you start giving carefree rubatos to every starting note of a measure, you're killing off the rhythm and the atmosphere that comes with it. Watch out for that, as well.

 

 Like LeMaster said, it's an ambitious project. Bach is the pinnacle of violin playing and I'm sure it's the same for celli.

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AB,

For a non-professional I have to say you're ambitious as the day is long.  Fact is, you've settled on the main problem in the suite (in addition to the key, of course!)  

I like your suggestion because I think all separate would drive me to distraction.  Keep in mind that just because you start out with any given bowing doesn't mean  you're married to it for the whole prelude.  

Also, I think two & two is perfectly fine, but of course just because you play two notes on one bow does not necessarily mean slurred, but you already know that, right?  Variety of sound (i.e. not necessarily bowing) is the key to maintaining interest of your audience!

Good luck, and have fun.

As I always like to say when friends are faced with difficult/unpleasant tasks, "Better you than me!"

(Joking.  Sort of.)

Perhaps, but the fact that nobody will ever have to hear it but me helps a lot.

 

 Sorry about that. I think you should probably sing it first, to get an idea of HOW you want it to sound. Take your time with it. Then, exercise string crossings a LOT. Probably never enough, but better than none.

 

 The problem with the player you posted is that he is not doing a very good job bringing the melody and rhythm that Bach would have appreciated to the listener. Once you start giving carefree rubatos to every starting note of a measure, you're killing off the rhythm and the atmosphere that comes with it. Watch out for that, as well.

 

 Like LeMaster said, it's an ambitious project. Bach is the pinnacle of violin playing and I'm sure it's the same for celli.

 

 

I find that to be one of the harder aspects of the piece. The continuity between the first and second note of each measure (with that figure) is crucial to expressing the idea. The jump from the low string to the high is very easy to lose the rhythm on.

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This is a suite I have not studied with a teacher, but for viola, the Schirmer's edition bowings (by Samuel Lifschey) are quite different than either that you propose. Basically, the first note of the Prelude is separate followed by continuous slurred sets of four with a tenuto over each pedal tone, a pattern that is maintained until two bars before the a tempo ma tranquillo.

 

I don't particularly care for this bowing, but I like the idea (especially on cello) of the separate bow for the pedal tone followed by slurred sets (whatever feels comfortable on cello). Or a separate bow for the first note every two bars (to emphasize the following note change).

 

As the music intensifies (the two lines before the a tempo ma tranquillo) the edition separates the first note of each bar and follows it with a three-note slur and two two-note slurs. That makes a lot of sense to me, and is probably what I'd like in the beginning, as well, or something like that.

 

I do not care for the separate bow approach.

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I have played this suite many times (on viola).   I always use separate bows in the arpeggiated sections (as in the beginning) and slurred patterns in the scale work passages.  Since I have played them for so long and have a definite sound for it in my ear, I find this recording rather dry an unmoving, but I'm sure many would feel my rendition is too romantic, I received both raves and a 'well, too each their own' reactions to my performances in auditions.  I have a very different feel for how the chord progressions move it along, make it breathe and ebb/flow. In my regular practice schedule, when I practiced regularly, a Bach Suite was part of my daily routine, cycling through them about once a year. They are food for the soul.

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Personally, I play this movement with separate bows, as Anna Magdalena Bach's manuscript has it written as such.  I find that following the manuscript allows one to play it in a fashion that is more appropriate to the baroque style.  Like Dr. S, I slur the scale work passages (which is also what the manuscript has as well).  An edition of the suites that I enjoy using is the Kurtz from International Music Company, as it includes the manuscript next to each page for comparison.

 

Happy practicing! 

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The continuity between the first and second note of each measure (with that figure) is crucial to expressing the idea. The jump from the low string to the high is very easy to lose the rhythm on.

 

You're on the right track.  Try to give the bass notes extra length without taking time.  A good teacher once told me to try to mimic an organ in this prelude.

 

I use mostly separate bows throughout.  It's not just Anna Magdalena's copy (dated to 1727-1731).  Peter Kellner's copy (1726) and the two anonymous copies from later in the 18th century all agree on separate bowings.

 

Then again, I think baroque performance practice allows for you to do whatever you damn well please.  And I think sometimes long passages left without bowings were meant for the soloist to improvise bowings over anyway, so, you could make a strong case for whatever you choose, I think.

 

The bourrées in this suite are two of my favorite dances by Bach.

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A violinist should never get involved in a discussion of the Bach 'Cello Suites, but here goes.  :)   

 

In my opinion we should play it as close to how Bach published it, or bowed it, since he seemed to know something about bowing.  Then, we should make it as meaningful and beautiful as we can within the constraints of the original bowing.  If nothing else it is good training to make fine music out of awkward notes and bowings.  However, then once we have exhausted that process, what the hey!

 

Here is an example of an alternative bowing:

 

 

Yo Yo and Starker play it separately; and I think most of the 'cellists and violists we admire do.  There is a remarkable recording of Milton Thomas which was used for the credits in a science-fiction movie; separate.

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Yo Yo and Starker play it separately; and I think most of the 'cellists and violists we admire do.  

 

. . .  There is a remarkable recording of Milton Thomas which was used for the credits in a science-fiction movie; separate.

 

 

But not Pierre Fournier, who has (in my opinion) among the finest interpretations of Bach:

 

 

My teacher studied the suites with Milton Thomas, as well as Primrose, and passed along their bowings.

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Please forgive me if this is a naive-sounding question, but does anyone else hear a definite bass line (the last note of the preceding bar + first note of the bar) in this piece? If I could play this (which I can't, yet) I would want to bring those two notes out somehow, not just the first note of every bar.

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I've got the Schirmer (Gaillard) edition and I played it as printed - although it may be as long as 8 years since I last played that suite. I also have the Schirmer viola edition, but I have not played that suite on viola - and I would consider similar bowing carefully because of the different relative location of high and low strings but constancy of my body part locations.

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Please forgive me if this is a naive-sounding question, but does anyone else hear a definite bass line (the last note of the preceding bar + first note of the bar) in this piece? If I could play this (which I can't, yet) I would want to bring those two notes out somehow, not just the first note of every bar.

Definitely Joe.   This is something Bach did regularly with his solo music.   The great thing abut Bach's music is it is so resilient and so compelling that you can perform it successfully and meaningfully using any number of styles.  It works no matter what.  Play it the way that it speaks to you.   If others don't like it and your livelihood does not depend on ticket sales or recording sales, then just play it for yourself.   Starting off understanding what is the current concept of how Bach heard his music is useful, but not holy.

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