Bach Cello Suite Fingerings

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by anightintunisia, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. anightintunisia

    anightintunisia Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Can anyone recommend any books or editions that have suggested fingerings for any of the Bach cello suites? I have one by Bert Witzel that is pretty good. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
  2. basic74


    Dec 28, 2012
    rabbath has a book with fingerings, but I can´t really comment because I´ve only looked at the prelude of the D-minor suite.
  3. I'd ask Jeff Bradetich. He plays them beautifully, and he's an educator so I doubt he'd mind the question.
    Calvin Marks likes this.
  4. Dbass926


    Jun 20, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    Hal Robinson recently released an edition of the First Suite with very progressive fingerings, each note is specified. You can easily find it by googling Hal Robinson Bach Cello Suite. He is also working on the 3rd Suite for release later this year.
  5. anightintunisia

    anightintunisia Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Does he have an email, or should I just Facebook him?
  6. anightintunisia

    anightintunisia Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Sweet, this is exactly what I was looking for. Looks like he spent some time with Edgar Meyer then came out with this. Thanks.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
  7. I dunno...never been the fanboy type. I think I remember that either he or his foundation have a website.
  8. anightintunisia

    anightintunisia Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    I'm confused by your comment, but that's okay.
  9. Also which Suite are you doing? Im working on the 2nd and have 3/6 movements down and I came up with my own fingerings for the whole Suite and then my prof. just altered some later. If youre doing the 2nd suite I can send you some videos with my fingerings slowly and you can copy. Idk if thats helpful
  10. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    Bradetich published an edition around the same time as he recorded the first suite. I looked at Recital Music's website, but couldn't find it there...
    A quick Google search got me this- - a PDF of the part.

    Rabbath published the 1st and 2nd suites.
    Paul Ellison also published his take on the 1st and 2nd that are based on Rabbath's fingering concept and the articulations from the Anna Magdelana manuscript.
    Fat bob and chilensko like this.
  11. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    The Sterling edition is what many of us older folk cut our teeth on, but there are a million ways to play the suites on bass. Personally I hate the very idea of using a "bass edition", and have mostly just worked from manuscript editions and figured out my own transposition and fingerings. If you have the resources to look at lots of existing bass editions, then by all means do it. But, in the end, you should work up a personal version which works best for you:)
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
    eerbrev and the_Ryan like this.
  12. I second this. Working from the Magdelana manuscript is rewarding
    eerbrev likes this.
  13. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There are a few different bass editions out there which transpose the suites up a 4th-5th (you play them as written which sounds down a 5th-4th from cello pitch) and usually they select keys that either take advantage of the open strings of a bass in 4ths, or they put it in a part of the bass that isn't nearly as high as reading them at pitch. These were quite popular for a while and still are in certain circles, but "the only real way to play them is a pitch" tends to be an ideology that some people take as a gospel truth.

    Each school of thought isn't wrong, and there are a lot of benefits to playing them in multiple keys in multiple places on the instrument. Playing them as written/down an octave really gets you moving around the bass up to about thumb position, they often sit fairly well on the bass in those keys, and they are fantastic music for exploring different fingering possibilities, playing up the string instead of always in lower positions, and playing some really great music that isn't at the other end of the fingerboard. If you don't have an extension/5 string/5ths, you will have to play a few notes up an octave, some of the chords will have to be broken, arpeggiated, or you'll have to chose note(s) to leave out, but that's not the end of the world. You can also work from the original parts in the original keys and transpose to other keys, which is a really great mental exercise as well and handy if you ever get a chart/lead sheet and get told "Oh, we do this in X key for the singer, that's cool right?"

    Playing from bass editions in transposed keys (I have a Sterling edition, but there are others) gets the notes up a little higher, usually makes the chords less awkward, lets them sing instead of rumble a little more, and is a great way to explore from relatively low on the instrument up into relatively lower thumb positions. Most of these editions have fingerings so you aren't completely shooting in the dark, but they are great for exploring your own fingerings as well. While I am sure that plenty of people will disagree with me, these tend to be where the suites sound the best on bass for most students/amateurs/non-soloists as it gets them out of the rumble range, but doesn't put you into the stratosphere. They do occasionally get fairly high, but still stay in a part of the bass that isn't too crazy. It still sounds like you are playing bass, instead of playing cello on a bass.

    Playing them at pitch (there have been several good editions already suggested) is not a bad idea, even if it sounds like I'm discouraging it. You can really develop a grasp on thumb positions and get to know the upper range of your instrument quite well. There are some chord compromises as with any other option for playing them on bass, and sometimes there are some pretty hairy jumps/shifts to make things happen, but it can be done. I have the Edgar Meyer recordings that are very nice, Rinat Ibragimov has the third suite on YouTube and plays it beautifully, Jeff Bradetich has some of them on YouTube as well that are great, and there is a masterclass on the prelude to the second suite that is very much worth watching. While learning this part of your bass is not a bad idea, it is also a register that many of us rarely use outside of the practice room which is a large part of why I'm suggesting the other options can be equally if not more beneficial. Although there are going to be some really great suggestions for fingerings in the editions available and that can be a great starting point if you don't play up there all that often, exploring other options on your own is a great idea as well.

    There are a lot of bowing/articulation/dynamic/phrasing choices that can be made with this music. While the manuscripts do have a lot of useful information and plenty of editions have added some good ideas, I think the beauty of these suites is that there are a ton of possibilities. It might not be historically informed performance to play them in certain ways, but you can really explore. The reality is that even if we knew exactly how they "should" be played or Bach's intentions, we are playing them on bass, with modern strings, modern bows, modern (set up) instruments, etc. which is very different than the cello, strings, and bows that Bach would have been writing for. For the same reasons you don't drive a station wagon the same as a Camaro, you aren't going to necessarily execute the same thing in the same way on a bass and on a cello.

    Experiment and enjoy.
  14. anightintunisia

    anightintunisia Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Thanks dude, all good wisdom.
  15. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    I recommended this somewhere else, but it is worth recommending again.
    Bärenreiter Verlag -  Product

    It's like a mini library with one clean copy, and 5 facsimiles from the old source manuscripts. The cello suites in their purest form.
    eerbrev likes this.
  16. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    Bronx, NY
    I've always used the Wenzinger (Bärenreiter) cello version and the manuscripts on IMSLP and created my own transpositions and fingerings.
    eerbrev likes this.
  17. This is an old thread, but I wanted to know about the Robinson edition. I only found it on this site - first, is this the only way to get it? Never heard of this site so I want to make sure it's legit. But also, does anyone know what clef this is in? I want to teach this to a student of mine, and I only have the Bernat edition which is completely in tenor clef. I know it fairly well but it will just take much longer to learn like that. If this edition is in bass clef, or even treble clef then I'd try it. Also, I see that he studied with Edgar Meyer - how does that affect the fingerings or bowings?

  18. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    I bought mine there, works fine.
    Hals fingerings is a great place to start
  19. What clef is it in?
  20. gnypp45


    Apr 21, 2014
    Stockholm, Sweden
    In treble clef, throughout all movements.
    wathaet likes this.
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