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'Cello Suite 1 Prelude Analysis


The solo 'cello suites of J.S. Bach are so well known and often played by guitarists that I thought it would be worthwhile to do an analysis of the Prelude to 'Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007. I include two versions in the pdf's above; the original 'cello version in G major in bass clef as well as a transposed version for guitar in D major placed into the treble clef for ease of reading. Nothing has been added in the way of extra bass notes. I used the original 'cello version as it appears in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.

The analysis uses two staves. The upper is the actual music and the lower is the reduction analysis in which the music is reduced to show the underlying voice-leading and harmonic structure similar to what Heinrich Schenker would do. I included some bass notes in the reduction staff which I believe are there by implication only. You can let me know whether you agree or disagree with these choices.

I will refer to the D major version in the following discussion. My apologies to the cellists.

This Prelude consists of two sections: Part 1 (mm. 1-22) and Part 2 (mm. 22-42).

Part 1 (mm. 1-22)

Notice the voice-leading in the outer voices in the reduction staff. The bass begins on the tonic (D) sustained as a pedal point through measure six.

The bass then begins a step-wise descent all the way down to the F# (by implication) in measure thirteen (V/vi) before returning to D in measure sixteen.

The upper voice follows along a tenth above the bass through measure ten before veering off and moving in contrary motion with the bass in measures 11-16.

In measures 16-20 we move through several secondary dominants before arriving on the true dominant (A7) in third inversion in measure twenty-one prolonged through the fermata in measure twenty-two.

Part 2 (mm. 22-42)

The second section consists harmonically of one long dominant seventh chord (A7) eventually resolving to tonic in measure forty-two. In case you were wondering, the G that was in the bass in measure twenty-two is transferred up two octaves in measure twenty-three (shown by dotted slur) before resolving as it should to F# in measure twenty-five.

Along the way we get a little taste of D minor (parallel minor) with the introduction of the Bb in measure twenty-four as well as another secondary dominant (V/V) in measures 26-27.

The new discoveries for me occur in measures 29-37.

First, the underlying 7-6 suspensions over the A pedal point in measures 29-31 went completely unnoticed by me as well as the ascending and descending thirds in measures 31-37.

Finally the big finish involves the chromatic ascent in the upper voice which transfers the C# up an octave before its final resolution to tonic in measure forty-two. Remember, the tonic 6-4 chord (D/A) in measure thirty-nine is really still considered dominant with a double appoggiatura which does resolve (by measure forty-one) to the dominant seventh and then finally the tonic in measure forty-two.

Once again I hope you find something in this analysis that is useful or enlightening in some way. I am always amazed when I look into Bach's music. It must have something to do with 18th century German beer.


January 05, 2014 @09:07 am
jose arrboleda
Great music thanks,
January 03, 2014 @12:28 pm
Tony Hyman
Great stuff John.There isnt much one can add to your views on the harmonic and melodic flow of the piece.Intersting though, from a guitar perspective is the abscence of slurs in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe cello piece which you refer to . I suppose it all a matter of personal taste then,because the 1770 Manuscript in Bach's wife's possession at that practically riddled with slurs for the cello. Noad Bk 2 also uses extensive slurs in the Key of D maj.I take it then that one could apply what Stanley Yates encourages to be applicable to your arrangement as well in this extract from "J.S. Bach Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites ..for Guitar" we he suggests when using Comparison Scores on pg 6 . "The comparison scores are provided not only for comparison between the arrangement and the priginal,.....but also to encourage players to explore the arrangement process for themselves. I encourage players to make adjustments to the performance score, or to creat their own , as they see fit.- this is the Baroque spirit." Strangely enough Mr Yates has very few slurs in his arrangement in C maj.My point being that there is enough room for tasty embellishment (jamming) such as playing slurs ad libitum even if not indicated.Tastefully of course!

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