Non existant bass part in Brandenburg Concierto 3

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by MartinBorgen, Apr 19, 2012.

  1. Hello all. The string ensemble I play in recently started to wrok on Bach's brandenburg concierto no. 3. The arrangement had no bass part, only cello part - and while I know that this is the Continuo basso part, that all bass violins and violone would play, I wonder if there are some conventions I should be aware of when playing this, just to make sure I'm not a bassist happily enjoying some work to do while unknowingly committing atrocities to music.

    Obviusly, I need to transpose some phrases an octave, but that would only put me in unison with the cellos - as I make sure to avoid creating any/as few as possible inverted intervals in my melody to avoid messing up the contrapuctual melodies up.

    Are there any things that basses by convention did not play on, and should I care about that? Obviously the conductor holds the final judgement here, but just to get some knowledge of what I'm doing.
  2. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    I did Brandenburg 3 at my school, and the edition we used had a separate violone part that our bassist played.
  3. cryfok


    May 28, 2008
    brooklyn, ny
    Brandenburg 3 violone part is on IMSLP. Just played it. A workout, but great great fun.
  4. bassfiddlesteve

    bassfiddlesteve Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    The double bass (violone) part does differ from the violoncello part in many places as the three 'cellos are not part of the continuo group in this piece. In the bass part there are many instances of low D and a few C's and C sharps too. I know some bassists will tune their E string down a whole step to get the low D, but it will sound okay transposed up a octave as well. I think you will be fine as long as you are playing the bass (violone) part and not the 'cello part.

    Here is a link to the bass part: Link

    The first movement is one of my favorite pieces and like all of the Brandenburgs it has a great bass part. The bass doubles the melody in a few spots and the "walking" bass line in bars 87-90 is the big climax. After that each violin and violist has a turn playing a variation of an angular phrase before the cellos and basses take over, leading to the final statement of the melody. The Allegro is pretty challenging and of course the Adagio that proceeds it contains only two notes.

    Here's a nice version with Alois Posch on bass: Link. even though it's a period ensemble he seems to be playing a standard double bass with the E tuned down to D. You can hear the bass very well and although he's using a German bow, he seems to be getting every note :)

    - Steve
  5. Interesting, but the arrangement we have is a re-arrangement for string quartet, so the different parts might very well be shuffled around a bit. I'm not sure how well adding a foreign element to the arrangement will affect it. I'll see what our conductor says.
  6. bassfiddlesteve

    bassfiddlesteve Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    An arrangment for string quartet would be very different from the original score. You might get a copy of the 'cello part, compare it to the original bass/violone part and mark the sections where you should lay out as "tacet". The majorty of the bass part does double the 'cello line.

    - Steve
  7. Yes, the score I'm playing from is the Cello part, so I will do just as you said. A few places I think the violone part is silent and a few few organ points (that's the word in English, right?), but other than that, it seemed pretty much similar.

    Great help by the way, thanks!
  8. JasonBurnham


    Apr 15, 2011
    Dover, Ohio
    I have a bass part for it. I'm not sure if it's a variation of the original but I can send it to you if you want
  9. bb3 has 3 solo cello parts and a seperate bass part. Do some internet legwork FGS!
  10. Thanks both of you, but as the whole ensemble plays a rearrangement for string quartet, many things are changed. I've just verified this by looking at the cello score and comparing it to the original. For example, this arrangement has one 1st violin part, one 2nd violin part, one Viola part and one cello part.

    So even if I get the original score, no one else will play the original parts - allthough the original bass part is linked up above.

    By the way Fergus, what's "FGS"?
  11. If it's arranged for StrQt (which you didn't say) then take the cello part and play the sections marked forte. Don't transpose stuff! It'll only muddy things up.
    Enjoy yourself, this is great music however you play it.

    FGS = For God's Sake (as in Star Trek, 'For God's sake Jim, he's only human!')

  12. bassfiddlesteve

    bassfiddlesteve Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Rather than play the forte sections I would suggest comparing the 'cello part to the original bass part and mark where you should not play. There are times where the cellos play the same thing as the bass and times where they play an independent part.

    - Steve
  13. No offence indented, but check post N° 5 ;)

    That would certainly work, but be a very harsh solution. As there is a bass part (played by basses in all recordings I've heard) very similar to the Cello part, think it's a bit too harsh - considering how few Fortes there are in the part.. :bag:

    Flipping the idea around, I got the idea to see how being quiet on all piano parts would work.

    The only place the cello and bass don't follow each other i the phrases where the cello no longer plays in unison (in the original arrangement), plus the pedal notes. I've marked these places in my score, and I'll ask what our conductor thinks on the rehearsal tomorrow.

    As a little fun, among all recordings I listened to, I found this guy on youtube. Pretty fun way of presenting music, especially Bach.
  14. bassfiddlesteve

    bassfiddlesteve Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
  15. Normally me too, the thing that makes these most interesting is having it all superimposed on each other, and in a neat fashion - doing this with scores will be much more cluttered.

    Maybe I'm just not as good at reading the full score, but I feel my eyes don't suffice to cover the full height of the full score.
  16. NicholasF

    NicholasF Guest

    Jan 17, 2012
    The only way to over come this is just to read, read any and all scores you can find. Its like reading a book,the only way you get good/fast at it is when you read a lot. Good luck!