Bach and the Happy Few
Anner Bylsma
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BACH and the Happy Few
About Mrs. Anna Magdalena Bach’s Autograph Copy
of the 4th, 5th and 6th Cello Suites
Sequel to Bach, The Fencing Master

The second half of the Suites is not a different kettle of
fish from the first. The ideas of the earlier ones seem to
be taken a step further. The movements are also longer
in the main.

The wonderful ‘senza basso’-idea, which means that the
listener often fabricates the basses himself in his mind (in
the first bars and many later ones of Allemande IV, for
instance), should always be taken into account. These
pieces deal with communication and the listener should
actually have a kind of right to be mentioned on the
poster at the door.                                                                                                                                                            
x) Possibly there is some modal harmonizing in the Prelude
of the 4th Suite.
x) The Italian tuning with two g-strings in the 5th Suite
may have been seen as old-fashioned by the time this.
Suite was adapted from the Lute version. There are so
many Italian 17th c. solo-pieces which were written in
this tuning.
x) About five strings (for viola pomposa or violoncello
piccolo). The 6th Suite is a virtuoso piece for an
instrument’s future which did not, as yet, materialize.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
The 5th Suite is a recomposed composition. It is not
helpful, I think, to insert the differences found in the
lute-part (a tone on a cello is quite a different thing from
one on a Lute).
The modern player is raised to be cannon-fodder for
Bach’ text is breathtakingly precise, but not for
automatons, who meaninglessly play the length of notes
and dynamics as written. For instance, the first long E
flat in the Sarabande 6th should be short, like many other
places in this counterpoint where one voice is shortened
to make another one go back and forth.  Enjoy and

Bach was an honest man and a very good violinist, a
scientist in music, a composer, a contrapuntist, a
meticulous calligraphist and many more things: in short,
not somebody needing a helping hand. Of his Suites for
Cello the autograph is unfortunately lost but one may
wholeheartedly rely upon the copy made by his wife Anna
Magdalena. Her copy of the Solo Violin works is very good
indeed (as can be seen by comparing it with the
autograph), but the one of his Cello Suites is what in
later days would be labelled an AUTHORIZED copy.
Recognizing the faulty expertise with which one was
saddled during a lifetime of practising, and rediscovering
the mastery and wit oozing through every note of these
old pages will by enormously
rewarding. Sure enough it will take a clear mind and a
good and fluent technique.
Long live the Happy Few who can do it!
A transcription for violin and for alto of the 4th Suite
and the Sarabande of the 5th has been added.
Published  (May 2014) and exclusively distributed by:
Bylsma’s Fencing Mail Utrecht, The Netherlands
96 pages, 29,4 x 20,5 cm, sewn paperbound;
ISBN 978-90-805674-3-6

Violoncello piccolo, ca. 1700
South Germany, maker unknown
For orders larger than 1 book, please contact us
Bookprice € 30,00

Shipping Worldwide € 17,00 or Europe € 12,50
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